Wednesday, July 02, 2008

the new literacy

Noah just posted a thing about Programming being the new literacy. I can't link directly to it because it's on his sidebar, but it'll be on his front page for a while.

He links to this, which amongst other things, says this:
"One might ask, 'Will every educated person really have to program? Can't the people who need programming just buy it?' Possibly. Of course, with that model, we have in a sense returned to the Middle Ages or ancient Egypt, or even before. Then, if you needed to communicate your thoughts on paper, you couldn't do it yourself. You had to hire a better-educated person -- a scribe -- who knew the writing code. Then, at the other end, you needed someone to read or decode it -- unless, of course, you were 'well educated,' that is, you had been taught to read and write and thus had become literate. "
I have lots of thoughts on this, none of which have a satisfying ending, or any kind of point so I won't bore you with them. I imagine Tim has a lot to say on this. I bet Iain's got a few nuggets too.

Me got no nuggets. Here's a few mumblings though:

• I am a prime example of someone that can't carry out his own ideas as he'd like. But there are always new pieces of software arriving that automate programming for us. (I made I Feel London with iWeb)
• Douglas Rushkoff would presumably argue that tools like iWeb (and even more sophisticated ones like Square Space) are still making us create things on other people's terms.
• I've uploaded a lecture from Rushkoff called Why Johnny Can't Program that is very relevant to all this, here.
• Is it just that the concept of 'literacy' has become radically more sophisticated to the point that a comparison with reading and writing is no longer relevant?
• These days, things change so fast, should I be learning to code or just wait for the next bit of smart software to come out that can do it for me?
• Is it too late for me? A 14 year old can do this better. Shouldn't I just take comfort in this: "The one who knows 'how' will always get a job. The one who knows 'why' will always be her boss." ?
• If programming is the new literacy, does it make sense to put so much of my life into learning something that is easy to find around me? Shouldn't I just have a fuck load of kids and make them my programming slaves?

Sigh.

3 Comments:

Anonymous lauren said...

ooh, andy, great topic. throws open all kinds of stuff 'what is literacy' -are you literate if you truly understand it, or just enough to work with it, fill out forms and do a basic blog template?

although it's also a discussion for the privileged, considering that there is still a stack of the world that doesn't have decent literacy skills or access to decent books.

and then there's the question of permission for programming - can you censor programming?

hmm.. many cans of many worms. i'll be interested to see what the rest of the kids have to say about it...

2:33 pm  
Blogger Troy Worman said...

Great article here on the "new literacies."

http://www.districtadministration.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=1292&p=1#0

3:11 am  
Anonymous Tim said...

Even within programming itself there are tiers of literacy. You're always working within some kind of structure where someone else [more literate than you] defined the rules.

With open source platforms and web development APIs becoming more and more substantial (jQuery, Drupal, PaperVision), developers engage less and less with the lower level intricacies of a language and effectively interface with a higher layer of code written and documented by third parties and approached in the way these parties dictate.

9:28 pm  

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