Matt Kirschenbaum has posted his essay “Hello Worlds (why all humanities students should learn to program)” on his Web site. The essay brings up the aesthetics of beautiful code and the irony that programming code, though inscrutable to the programming illiterate, is also inscrutable to the machine.
Kirschenbaum argues that requiring students to learn programming provides the same benefits as learning a foreign language: the ability to analyze and question existing translations without being dependent upon a text which is one level removed from its author’s creation. Especially for scholars of digital texts, understanding the mechanisms that drive the art surely provides a deeper understanding and closer analysis.
Such an education is essential if we are to cultivate critically informed citizens — not just because computers offer new worlds to explore, but because they offer endless vistas in which to see our own world reflected.