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Coding And Design

The Art Behind Computer Technology

Computer code is the most rapidly evolving language one earth. It is the language we use to communicate with technology and machines to convert our words into their commands. With their own rules, shortcuts, and grammatical errors, coding languages are much like our own human dialects. In the same way that language allows us to convey universally understood feelings and thoughts, computer programming brings real ideas to life. On the surface, coding is just the practise of arranging text and numbers in different permutations to tell a computer to perform a function. However, once you look past the endless lines of text, you’ll begin to see the pure creativity behind programming.

Consider for a moment what your life would be like if you never learned to read or write. If you were to stare at these words on the screen and not understand what they mean. How would you feel? Think of all the infinite possibilities you would be missing out on. Luckily for most of us, we were all taught how to read and write when we were young kids in school. But we never really appreciated the significance of what we were learning. To have an entirely different means of communication at our disposal is something we take for granted every single day. Every time you read a text on your phone or a post on Facebook you are, in a sense, using a kind of ancient coding language. Each letter is a unit of information that combines with other “units” to form larger chunks of information. A thousand different people can look at the same combination of symbols and visually process the exact same information.

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Language is a fascinating thing when you stop to think about it, and the language we use to communicate with computers is no different. It can be even more complex than the language we use to communicate with each other, because it has to be able to convey large amounts of information all at once about auditory and visual media. Imagine having to describe a movie in vivid, high-definition detail while simultaneously doing all the dialogue and sound effects yourself, all in real time. That is essentially the basics of the kind of information processing a computer has to handle. To convey that kind of information, we need a special kind of language: coding.

Teaching kids to code from a young age has shown increased levels of creativity and engaged learning with computers. Much like reading and writing, coding gives kids the keys to express their ideas in an entirely new way. That’s why many schools are beginning to see the benefits of teaching coding and including it in their curriculum. Computer technology is a perfect example of where science and art intersect. The creativity of coding shows how the arts and the sciences do not have to be at odds with each other, but rather compliment each other perfectly. Teaching computer sciences in school bridges the gap between art, science, math, and other disciplines, bringing them all together in a single, creative environment.

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Image Credit: Margaret Noble

Art teacher Margaret Noble teaches a very unique twelfth grade high school class that perfectly illustrates the connection between coding and design. The class is called Media Arts, and the curriculum includes teaching students the basics of coding and computer programming and how to apply those skills to creative exploration in art. Through vastly uncharted territory, students take ideas and issues such as police brutality, noise pollution, and post traumatic stress and create digital artwork to convey their ideas about their chosen topics. Noble and her students’ art exhibition, entitled Unfamiliar Landscapes displays the students’ work as they journey through a “sea of black and white text” as they first learn to code to their final projects at the end of the course.

Noble says the exhibition was inspired by each student’s individual experience navigating the language of computer code and applying their own original ideas. Through computer technology, students leaned how to manipulate colour, texture, and lines in order to produce incredible artwork. They used code as a medium to convey thoughts, ideas, and feelings in the same way that a painter would use specific colours and brush strokes, or a poet would use carefully chosen words.

One student created a program that used a camera to take the live silhouette of the person in front of it and fill the silhouette with flames. This is meant to represent a “visual metaphor” for symptoms of PTSD that can be experienced by firefighters and other first responders. The importance of this metaphor is that if left untreated, symptoms of mental illness and trauma will eventually consume the victim, just as the flames appear to consume the person standing in the frame of the camera.

Designing with code demonstrates not only the importance of teaching computer programming in school, but also the connection between art and technology. Coding teaches creative and problem solving skills, and sets individuals up for successful careers, specifically in graphic design, web development, data engineers, and much more.

In a sense, coding can be considered one of the most pure art forms, because everything you do is created completely from scratch. It is a demanding talent that requires lots of creative thinking and problem solving. Code can be reused and built on, but to create an original project takes a lot of focus, hard work, and originality. Code-savvy graphic designers are a huge asset, because they have a fundamental understanding of the programs they are working with and how they work. Why? Because they literally speak the language of the computer they are working with. We all use computers in our day to day lives, more today than ever before, so why not take the time and effort to learn some basic programming skills, if even to have a better understanding of the incredible technology you are working with under the tips of your fingers.

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