The ever-trusty del.icio.us/TomC feed brings news of a debate related to the Processing or Die thread a while back. A blog post over on Grand Text Auto about a lecture by C.E.B. Reas at the Human Systems | Digital Bodies conference has drawn some interesting comments about “procedural literacy” and discussion of general terminology.
Michael Mateas, associate Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, has posted a link to his paper "Procedural Literacy: Educating the New Media Practitioner" (PDF). In it he argues that a knowledge of computational processes (i.e. procedural literacy) is a requirement for anyone seriously intending to deal with the so-called “new media”. It’s slightly on the techy side of things, but has some interesting historical references (Papert, Kay, Nelson etc.) as well as some fresh takes on the basic problem of computing for the humanities. For instance, he proposes (writing) games as the perfect vehicle for understanding a procedural approach. Interestingly, another participant in the discussion, Ian Bogost, has a book out on MIT Press entitled Unit Operations : An Approach to Videogame Criticism.
The idea of computational literacy extends beyond what is traditionally considered code. Our favorite Norwegian blogger heroine, Jill Walker, forced her electronic literature students to learn HTML and CSS in order to set up their own blogs. While HTML lacks any active computational component, it can still potentially hold a transformative experience in terms of understanding how computers “think”. Just ask all the Myspace kids.
And of course there is always the dogmatic Open Source view as to why you should learn to code: If you can’t hack it, it will control your life.