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The Other Two Questions

For Tuesday’s mentorship session, we’ve been asked to answer four of ten or so questions from the teachers — reflections on our times at SFPC. Fortunately for me, I’d already taken a swing at two questions:

Now for the other two.

What are some of your memorable learning experiences at the school?

I would say the most memorable experiences, mostly from Ramsey Nasser’s Radical Computer Science and Zach Lieberman’s animation & algorithms classes, are those where something, anything (ok code mostly) is unmasked and made approachable, and therefore changeable, manipulable.

In the case of Radical Computer Science, this would be the assumptions underlying our code experiences and alternative approaches: esolangs, stack languages, LISPs, simple domain-specific languages, and then creating our own works with grammar systems and syntax trees. Digging down into the options for talking to machines, and thus considering our relationships with them, was super exciting and opens a lot of possible options for further work: finishing my d3 language, creating work with Clojurescript, designing better text editors, etc.

For animations and algorithms, not only was C++ (a ‘scary’ language! with pointers and things!) made approachable and awesome, but the simple approaches we can use to imply movement and sentience were brought to the surface too.

In both cases, things that once were mysterious and difficult turn out to be magic practicable by any one of us squishy machines. This fact was presented by both Zach and Ramsey with such excitement and conviction, I can’t imagine not being swept along. Loved it.

What questions are you leaving the school with? What questions did you come in with?

Apparently I also learned how to best ask questions.

Coming in:
  • What do I want to do in this space?
  • What does a successful practice look like?

Coming out:
  • What is the right balance between learning, sociability and work?
  • How do I figure out which approach suits me best?
  • Am I selling myself too short or not short enough?
  • How do we have relationships with objects & technology and what does that look like?
  • How do we spread poetic computation, our last great hope, to those who may be allergic to poetry?
  • What does ethical but nondidactic art look like?
  • What kind of work will let me keep asking these questions and still also eat?

And that’s it.