Arguments over matters such as whether or not humanities students should learn how to code in and out of themselves are further alienating, demarcating, and delineating boundaries that did not exist in the first place. But in order to elucidate myself or emphasize my intelligibility in this post, I don’t think humanities students should (all) learn how to code, with the caveat that most times, humanities as a category (or even science as a category) is itself unstable and achieved (performed into existence) through discourses such as this one.
The kind of “code” that we speak about in this class is yet another way of analyzing and presenting data, which inherently is no different from coding method used in ethnographic or qualitative sociological research. Indeed, as Evan Donahue argues, “Programming languages math and algorithms are the discourses used by computer scientists to address their concerns just as psycho analysis ethnography and material culture are some of the discourses used to address the concerns of the humanities.” The overemphasis on the discipline of (or rather, capitalist industrial values in) science and technology has often misled us into believing that other forms of knowledge production are all somehow “less developed” and therefore lacking. What we don’t consider, however, is how the false division between humanities and science are often produced through these kinds of discourses and we choose not to see what falls through the cracks. My undergraduate mentor, who has not the least proficiency in “modern” technology, uses brilliant categories and languages to code and analyze her ethnographic interviews. How is this not part of digital or coding/coded humanity?
Beyond this, as a social science student by training, my experiences with coding in the most technical sense has not been an enjoyable one. The kind of strictness, rigidity, and hierarchies inherent in the thinking of computer codes constantly disturb, surprise, and provoke intriguing thoughts for me. Perhaps, I think, before we enter this debate of who should do what, we should reflect on the very nature and genealogy of coding as a language, rather than exempting it from political and cultural examination/scrutiny.