Thoughts

Seeing the World In Code

So as I mentioned a few posts back, I’ve made my way through the online lessons at Codecademy, brushing up on my HTML & CSS skills.  As I was working through the last third of the ‘Make An Interactive Website’ course, there were a few beginning lessons on how to use JavaScript and jQuery.  These programs focused on how to handle user-end actions like clicking or pressing a key on the keyboard.  As I worked through the practice lessons, I was often reminded of Ellen Ullman’s novel The Bug, which is also about programming code.

Much of the conflict of the book also hinges on creating an interface that anticipates an individual user’s action.  While Ullman’s writing certainly evoked the controlled chaos of a mouse moving anywhere across a screen & trying to anticipate its intent, the JavaScript lessons I was working on certainly reinforced that.  I have an example here:

Code for wha-?
Code for wha-?

This screenshot is test code I wrote for a status update box.  These lines set up those ubiquitous little boxes all over social media that we take for granted today.  Objects in space meant to relay thoughts that can be at least one character long but no more that 140, with a warning counter for when you go over.  As I was writing this code, I was struck by how much work & time went into making sure the box responded to a user’s input instead of just sitting as a static design element.  The scope of what the characters in The Bug faced putting together an entire operating system suddenly seemed much more daunting.  (Or for another quicker example, this column by Yahtzee Croshaw on designing a gun for a video game.)

Realizing this sort commitment or willingness to work through the variables that coding requires has been an eye-opener for me & made me rethink why I’m taking these classes in the first place.  While I’m enjoying learning the skill & can use it to augment my new media interests, for the most part I think that learning any coding language will be a supplemental skill for me personally.  I would rather direct the sort of focus & finesse that would be needed to write excellent code into my ‘analog’ writing or editing skills.  Ellen Ullman’s protagonist fell in love with creating something virtual out of language, but I don’t know that I can give up my love for pen & paper just yet.

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