As I’ve said, I’m often on the fringes of digital humanities. I try to follow what’s going on (although, in the interest of not being on the internet all the time, not as closely as I might), partly because digital archives are important to the way I work, and partly because I think there’s interesting and important stuff going on over there. But I have to admit, I’ve mostly ignored the calls to make 2012 the year of coding. I read references to Codeacademy and moved on because, well, I’m busy.
And then there was a bit of a kerfluffle over gender and the exhortation that digital humanists learn to code. Miriam Posner said it first and best here. Follow-up is here. Both are right on, and I’m not going to bother linking or recapping to the inevitable back-and-forth on gender and coding that followed because, well, I’m lazy.
But Posner’s discussion of gender and coding, particularly the part about how men are more likely to have been given access to a computer and encouraged to learn to use it at a young age, got me thinking. I think she’s right. That’s certainly been what I observed, both of the people I know, and in my experience as a woman (girl at the time) who did have computer access and tech skills. It’s something I often forget about myself, but I do know how to code. I learned BASIC and C++ at computer camp in high school, Unix for my first job, HTML from years of using the internet, and tiny bits of CSS during the two years I was hosting my own knitting blog (I also know how to knit, spin, quilt, sew, and participate in the overwhelmingly female DIY online communities Posner talks about in her follow-up). My freshman year of high school, I won the state-wide math and science fair with a project on Benford’s law. I wrote some code to test data sets for first- and second-digit distribution, which would be beyond laughable today, but which was a bit more impressive before everyone had access to high-powered computers on their phones. I wrote the code in C++ and it was a pain in the butt, and then a year and a half later I learned Unix scripting and realized how much quicker it would have made the whole thing.