Creative Coding at the art & craft school Robotti

I am currently working on an article concerning creative coding at the Käsityökoulu Robotti (art&craft school Robotti). Robotti is a non-profit organization that offers teaching on art&tech for children. 

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Grasping the digital

A Recent article (not yet published) I wrote with my brother examines some of the difficult questions raising from the increased use of digital technologies. For example, digitalization can be seen to act as an almost mythological buzzword for progress. But, what does digitalization mean? How do we live in the digital world?

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Creative coding in art education. Presentation at FADS 2014

FADS is a Finnish Art Education Doctoral Studies network and Im glad to be a part of it. We held our first symposium at Pyhätunturi this october. Here is my presentation.

Here is some short notes for each slide:

Slide 1

I am doing my dissertation at Aalto ARTS in Helsinki and the subject of my thesis is ”Creative Coding in art education” 
I have started my dissertation this January and In this presentation I want to present some starting points in my research. 
My research question is that if and how creative coding can be used as an emancipatory force through art education? Interesting subquestion is that how creative coding can join digital and analogue worlds together in a meaningful way?
My study is in a way tottering between the borders of education, technology and arts. Or in a wider perspective culture, education and technology.

Slide 2

I will start with creative coding. 
It is most commonly affiliated with electronic tools aimed at the creative market and to art world. It includes different kinds of programming languages and development kits such as processing or open framework, but is not limited in the software world. For me Creative coding refers to using cheap electronic components, new manufacturing tools and wide array of other digital technologies with artistic freedom and curiosity. 
In a way it is using the digital tools at their most rudimentary form.
I have some examples about creative coding, to give some kind of idea what I am talking about.

Slide 3

First example is installation work I did with my brother. The piece projects different datasets as graphs, so you can compare them. You can interact with the piece by placing different fruits or vegetables on the tray. Each vegetable has it’s own dataset embedded in it.It is a humoristic comment on big data. You can read more about the installation here:

Slide 4

This is one example of the conclusion our ”algorithm” would do based on the presented data. -Fractalnoia, 2014

Slide 5

The second example is an art work, made in Art & Craft school Robotti’s winter-camp 2014. All the participants were 7-9-years old. In the camp we used littlebits- electronic building blocks that attach together by magnets. It is easy and informative way to got to know how different electronic systems work. 

Slide 6

In Art & Craft school Robotti we also have three ongoing gropus. Two for 7-9 years olds and one for more experienced makers. Drawing bot’s were made with Arduino and programmed to draw different random things with Arduino-

Slide 7

Three examples doesn’t really do justice to creative coding and its practices, but may give a bit larger perspective into it: Creative coding is not just sitting in front of computer.
Creative coding has many connections to diy-culture and specially to maker-movement. For me the aspects of exploration, hacking and tinkering are important forces when thinking about creative coding in art education. 
It is about going from consuming to creating - in taking control of our digital life. 

Slide 8

Another important viewpoint for me is the idea of code literacy.
Digital technologies surrounds us and alters the way we interact with the world.
Digitality creates inequality -digital divide- between those who understand it and those who dont.
Main thing in all of the digital technology is that it is based on code.
Code literacy is about being able to read and write in code. Still it is not that anyone has to become software engineer -We learn to read and write in schools and not everyone becomes a writer or a poet. I will next present three perspectives why I think code literacy is needed.

Slide 9

First is individual perspective.
It is about our freedom as an individual. The freedom to choose what we do with computers and how we’d like to do it. This is wishful thinking of course, but something to take into consideration. Understanding code is almost crucial if we want to partake in this freedom. For example free software movement is not a movement without people participating in it.

Slide 10

Second perspective is about the nature of code. It’s own biases. One clear example is the origin digital technology: It’s binary nature. A computer is either on or off, 0 or 1, yes or no. For digitality there is no maybe, it is all based on the binary and dual idea, adapted from Leibniz. We can off course program hundreds of yesses and nos to get to finer granularity, but it is very different in it’s nature to our life.

Slide 11

Third perspective is about social issues. Code is not some force of nature that has been discovered by scientist. 
No. It is a plastic model created entirely by humans and can be changed by us anytime we want it. 
- But the code that we are using is creating it’s own structures and laws, which we must obey, if we want to use that particular patch of code. Be it a operating system like windows, mac or linux or word processor etc.

Slide 12

One of the main problems with the code is that is often untested and unthought in societal sense. It is commonly created by white young american males, in few spots in US. Software maybe the gold rush of our age, but at the same time it creates a wide array of political and societal problems. These problems are presented into our society from the backdoor.

Slide 13

I am interested in bringing critical pedagogy into digitality. Freire himself asked for the proper use of technology in education. He collaborated with Seymour Papert, a researcher at MIT who already in seventies had interesting ideas on how to use computers in education. But I want to bring maybe even more critical thinking into this. Critical thinking that aims at emancipation of the digital culture -Not to abandonment but in reflective use of digital technology.

Slide 14

I have realized that the world created by code is a complex and it’s use very widespread. The explosion of internet and the rapid development of computers have led into lot’s of new kinds of problems. Privacy, search engines, big data, and algorithms to name just few. Code forms and reforms our world all the time. We live in data-driven world.
I have been thinking about a good term for this, but I think Morozov nails it.
Computational arrogance.
For me this includes the whole field from algorithms that do the stock trading, choose our hit songs or even compose them, to big data and the alteration of our culture by software products. 

Slide 15

This brings us into the the art world. Where similar problems are echoed and also maybe unanswered or even unquestioned.
Digital divide is the inequality between those immersed in code and those who have no clue. We use digital tools like they were analogue. Photoshop like it was a paint brush.

Slide 16

Last I want to bring some ideas on how I think this all ties in with art education. Art education offers a space for exploration, space to use and misuse code and other digital technologies. 
To form and reform our thoughts by doing. 
Seija Kojonkoski-Rännäli says it well: The thought in our hands. 
(In finnish we use the term käsittää where the base for the world comes from hand - käsi,  when we understand or aspire to understand something. )
Understanding OR different kind of understanding of digitality can maybe be made by mushing it together in our hands. 
Kojonkoski-Rännäli talks about the apprehension of quality. Meaning quality in an ethical sense, creating an understanding of that which is good. 
For me as an artists this bodily understanding and thinking makes a lot of sense. And I think is something that creative coding can bring to digital world
So here in a condensed form were some of the, lets say, starting points in my research that I wanted to bring about. Right now I am writing an article about Maker movement and when looked from the perspective quality as coined By Kojonkoski-Rännäli or from Marjo Räsänen’s experiental art understanding, it can bring about the understanding of quality.