Continuing Programming

This week has been an interesting dive into programming with Python.  In our first class, I was leading a discussion of patterns of code that went pretty well.  These sections of code were laying the foundations of programming, including covering the basics of organization and formatting (from content to spaces).  In our second class, I joined a fascinating discussion about the cultural and social context of programming.  We talked about how sometimes, choices in coding can leave people out, whether it be people with disabilities, nonbinary individuals, or senior citizens.  We ultimately talked about how capitalism makes it difficult to create the motivation to address these issues.  If the end goal is to make a profit, it’s easiest to sell to the easiest/most profitable/the majority market.  That ends up having consequences for those who are left behind in terms of access.  Finally, on Friday we had quick paired-up discussions of our project proposals.  These were very quick conversations that introduced our ideas and led to some back and forth with some suggestions.  I was able to run into a few other individuals working on video-related projects.  I’m excited to hear from these individuals when we get to the project-related teaching sections.  Overall I’m excited to start applying the foundations of Python and start delving into my individual project.

Proposal

Executive Summary: I am proposing a video-based project where I create a short film created from footage shot and edited by myself.  This will require video-editing, audio-editing, and filming skills, with the audio component (and any image-related editing), having the potential to be the most challenging.  The content of the film itself will most likely revolve around the DKC, with shooting taking place largely in October and editing taking place largely in November.   This video should be evaluated based on both quality and evidence of effort.

Rationale: The purpose of this project would be to elevate my video-editing skills to a more professional level.  To accomplish this, I would create a video using Adobe Premiere and potentially Photoshop.  The footage used would be footage shot by me, as opposed to existing footage.  I have lots of experience creating fanmade and mashup movie trailers, but not much experience in shooting my own footage.  This experience would potentially prepare me for an internship I’ve applied for in the spring with a short film/documentary company.  I would be gaining some practical experience both with shooting footage and editing it.  The theme of the video may be a sort of “A Day in the Life of the DKC”, which will hopefully be released on YouTube.

Risks and Rewards: I think the biggest challenge with this project will be the audio component.  With existing footage the audio is usually already clear and set, so I may have to experiment with different pieces of equipment to ensure that any audio I collect is clear.  Additionally if I choose to edit my footage visually, I will need to incorporate Photoshop and enhance my image-editing skills.  Since I don’t have a ton of Photoshop experience, this may be a challenge.  If the project is successful, it could serve as a sort of bonding video for the DKC, and potentially as a sort of advertisement.

Resources: To complete this project I will need video-editing, audio-editing, photo-editing, and filming/recording skills.  Needed software will include Adobe Premiere and potentially Photoshop.  I may also need to check out camera equipment from the HCC front desk.

Schedule: Ideally by November 8th I will have completed all filming.  This will give me about three weeks to work on editing, leading to a completed project by December 1st.

Assessment: The final product should be evaluated based on quality and evidence of effort.  My hope is to make a professional-looking final product that shows quality in both the shots themselves and the subsequent editing.  There should be a variety of visually-appealing shots, a coherent storyline, and good transitions/flow.

Entering Exploratory Programming

Last week we began to actually turn to the more hands-on section of coding.  This included downloading the software required.  I actually began by downloading version 3, but after consulting with a computer science major redownloaded version 2.  In beginning Nick Montfort’s book, it’s clear that it’s unlike most computer science textbooks.  It’s very wordy, often using analogies to illustrate various points.  Interestingly the book will often have you complete exercises incorrectly so you have a familiarity with different types of errors.  Furthermore, I appreciated Montfort’s justifications for learning coding more so then some of the articles we read last week.  It provided good arguments about the benefits of coding without necessarily using apocalyptic type arguments.  I also really enjoyed our exercise in editing existing code to create our own poems.  The poetry reading in particular was very engaging and helped us to visualize the creative aspects of coding and how the arts can apply to this discipline.

The First Day of Teaching Python

Teaching in this portion of the class is fairly different from the first portion.  Our peripheral teaching days were discussion based, and often involved facilitating conversations and creating connections to outside pieces of media/the real world.  In contrast, teaching code involves a bit more of me explaining things to my participants, and ending with some exercises.  In this way, the first portion was perhaps more “englishy” and the second is more formal.  I began my teaching process by discussing pitfalls I personally ran into during this chapter, and linking them to the Chapter 3 concept: Patterns in Code.  This included the importance of proper naming and spacing.  I also discussed how it seems like Python has combined the idea of spacing and brackets, which were separate entities in Java (another form of code I have some experience in).  This makes the spacing essentially more practical and important, rather than merely organizational.  We also discussed how it can be difficult to find errors in code that you’ve written, and some potential strategies include taking a break and looking at the code with fresh eyes later, or finding a friend to take a look, who may catch an error that you overlooked.  Finally we ended by incorporating the calculating chapter, editing the function and name to create new outputs.  From this experimentation we determined that the term “element” could be added multiple times to the mathematical expression, that negative numbers could be generated, and that division results in no decimal places.  I’m hoping that my student had a better understanding of the formulating a function, and was able to better apply the calculating chapter.

Manifesto

Ahad, myself, and Nicco constructed a minifesto from our respective ones we created before class.  The result was the following: “Coding is a valuable skill utilizing a blank canvas, creating something tangible from the nearly intangible.”  I believe this serves as a great jumping off point for my manifesto.  The phrase “valuable skill” suggests that learning coding is practical and has importance, adding a certain amount of imperative to mastering it.  The phrase “blank canvas” suggests a certain freedom to craft what you desire.  Finally, I believe the last section, “creating something tangible from the nearly intangible” can serve as a goal for the coding section of the class.  Essentially I hope to use the language of coding (the nearly intangible) to create a product that can successfully accomplish some task.  A “reach goal” would perhaps be to make my way to the Text III and/or the Statistics and Visualization chapters.  I have some basic knowledge, having had some exposure to html and having taken an intro to computer science lass over the summer (which utilized Java Applets), but have never worked with Python before.  I would love to be able to have a high enough proficiency with Python by the end of this semester to be able to put it as a skill on my resume.  But on a more philosophical note, I would love to be able to have a deeper understanding of computer programming and further my knowledge of the digital.

Entering Programming

This week we had the opportunity to examine the more philosophical considerations regarding programming.  We discussed how coding (and hacking in particular) are portrayed in the media.  Most of these portrayals utilize unrealistic speed and idolize the coder as a misunderstood loner/hero.  We also analyzed different online programming tools, including their goals and rhetoric.  The rhetoric of ease seemed to be a fairly common pitfall across these platforms, indicating that programming is “easy” and “anyone” can learn it.  Finally we considered the implications of programming, and whether we have an imperative to learn it with the rising use of technology.  The article we discussed in class was pretty thought-provoking, even if the tone was somewhat dire for my taste.  I personally believe it is advantageous to have an understanding of technology since it such an integral part of our lives, and in many ways aligns with a well-rounded liberal arts curriculum.  Whether or not it’s a necessity, the lack of which will cause you to be “programmed”… I’m not sure I buy into that yet.

Wrapping Up The Peripheral

On Wednesday I discussed Chapter 107.  This was a more humorous chapter involving Flynne talking with Netherton while he was operating the Wheelie Boy.  Her startling him was rather humorous, but the chapter also contained a more vulnerable moment for Netherton, who confessed that he does not like his timeline.  The chapter referenced rising sea levels, so I showed my table the following site, which outlines how coastlines could change.  I felt that this chapter contained some subtext between Flynne and Netherton, so I showed my table the following clip.  It’s a funny and engaging video, while also showing characters that come from different worlds (potentially comparable to how Flynne and Netherton occupy different timelines).

On Friday I discussed chapter 120.  I personally felt that this chapter was somewhat anticlimactic.  We’ve been building to this confrontation for about half the book, yet the action was resolved very quickly.  Flynne and Burton kill the villains, Lowbeer steps in to ensure that they’re safe in the stub, and the plot is essentially resolved.  The usage of a form of disintegration was rather interesting, and has been used to kill off villains in other pieces of media.  As such I showed my group a scene from Harry Potter and a scene from Anastasia, both of which feature similar death scenes.

Overall I enjoyed the book and the teaching process.  While I felt that the book resolved the plot too quickly, the actual buildup, especially in the middle section, was quite interesting.  Gibson does an excellent job world-building in the sci-fi realm.  Leading discussions helped ensure that I stayed up to date on my readings, and helped me to think more critically about the book, especially through making connections to other forms of media.

Leading the Peripheral For the First Time: Ch. 79-The Jackpot

This week’s discussions were pretty interesting.  Multiple times the series Black Mirror was referenced, connecting two different pieces of sci-fi.  Bringing in similar depictions allows us to see how the themes of The Peripheral are universal and have often been explored in other mediums.  Some of our fears and hopes regarding the future can be seen across various story-lines.  At the same time, these connections also allow us to better visualize the futuristic technology.

I used this idea during my personal discussion leading.  I brought in a short clip from Modern Family that illustrated how I imagined the “Wheelie Boy” would look:

The piece is amusing and hopefully engaged my tablemates while also helping them to have a slightly better understanding of Netherton’s situation as he discusses The Jackpot with Flynne.  I also summarized the various components of the Jackpot in addition to its resolution and response.  From there our discussion went off on a couple of tangents regarding our impressions of future technology, including Ash’s moving tattoos.  Being the discussion leader is an interesting position in that you have to help direct the discussion without squashing the ideas and deviations that are a natural part of learning and conversation.  At times it can be challenging, but I also reminded myself that having a dynamic discussion is preferable to silence and a lack of contribution.  Ultimately I viewed the lively conversation as a mark of success, indicating engagement and participation.  I hope that I was able to successfully strike this balance of guidance coupled with restraint, and hopefully I will continue to improve my leadership skills during future discussions.

Continuing The Peripheral

We’ve been able to delve deeper into Gibson’s book, and everything is really coming together.  Once Flynne began interacting with the future, we got full explanations for concepts that had previously only been mentioned or described with little to no context.  This is making the book much easier to read.  And now we finally know what the title of the book refers to.

The in-class discussions have also been interesting.  We’ve been able to connect the novel to a range of topics.  In my first group, the book led to a discussion of self-driving cars and philosophical discussions regarding The Trolley Problem.  In my second group, we examined similar themes in movies/television.  The idea of uploading/transferring consciousness and the usage of robots has been explored across sci-fi, including works such as Avatar, Westworld, Black Mirror, and Inception.  These have often been used to theorize a way to achieve immortality, or as a more cautionary tale.  I think Gibson explores these themes in a very fascinating but practical/realistic way, at least making his scientific explanations plausible while working on his world-building (which I believe is his main focus).  I look forward to continuing The Peripheral and participating in more discussions.