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We are a team of 5 people who are working on a translation of the book “Aesthetic Programming: A Handbook of Software Studies” into Chinese. Winnie Soon (HK/DK) and @geoffcox (UK) are the co-authors of the book in English (published late 2020). Based in Taiwan, Tzu Tung Lee is the artist facilitator, Ren Yu and Shih-yu Hsu are the lead translators. See: http://aesthetic-programming.net/ and https://hackmd.io/@aesthetic-programming/book (Feel free to join us)
In late 2020, Winnie Soon and Geoff Cox published the open access book “Aesthetic Programming: A Handbook of Software Studies”. Together with a Taiwanese working group, we are also involving the local community to translate it into Traditional Chinese language (see here for the discussion thread on the politics of translation as part of CCSWG22).
In summary, the book addresses the cultural and aesthetic dimensions of programming from its insides, as a means to think and act critically, offering an applied and overtly practice-based approach to understanding the importance of programming. Our intention is for readers to also become writers in the sense that they acquire key programming skills in order to read, write and think with, and through, code. We feel that it is important to further explore the intersections of technical and conceptual aspects of code in order to reflect deeply on the pervasiveness of computational culture and its social and political effects — from the language of human-machine languages to abstraction of objects, datafication and recent developments in automated machine intelligence, for example. Moving beyond a STEM focus, the book develops discussion of power relations that are still relatively under-acknowledged in technical subjects, concerning class and capitalism, gender and sexuality, as well as race and the legacies of colonialism - issues that are already familiar to the critical code studies community of course. This not only relates to the politics of representation but also nonrepresentation: how power differentials are implicit in code in terms of binary logic, hierarchies, naming of the attributes, and how particular worldviews are reinforced and perpetuated through computation.
The book contains 10 chapters + 1 bonus machine generated chapter, containing both the technical and basic principles of learning to program with sample code explanation, as well as wider political, cultural and social issues (also see : http://aesthetic-programming.net/). Each chapter starts with a flowchart that serves as the starting point to exemplify our approach of turning concepts “inside out” and the need to understand computational and programmable objects, relations, and processes in both logical and discursive forms. The current topics of the 10 chapters are: Getting started, Variable Geometry, Infinite Loops, Data Capture, Auto-generator, Object Abstraction, Vocable Code, Que(e)ry Data, Algorithmic Procedures, Machine Unlearning. They are the topics that are currently used in the delivery of the BA course/module “Aesthetic Programming” at Aarhus University, in Denmark.
Importantly, we do not see this book as a fixed and universal teaching resource, but rather a situated curriculum with the potential for extension and customization with other arts and coding communities. Following the free and open source ethos, we want to open up different possibilities for making “cuts” across the various materials and ideas, and encourage readers to fork a copy and produce their own versions; with different references, examples, reflections and new chapters for example, for further modification and re-use (see the respository: https://gitlab.com/aesthetic-programming/book). Responding to the invitation, in 2021, @SarahCiston and @markcmarino forked the book and created the chapter 8.5 entitled “Talking Back,” which sits between Chapter 8 (Que(e)ry Data) and Chapter 9 (Algorithmic Procedures), extending our discussion of APIs and conversational agents. They have also added two new perspectives and structural changes: Code Confession and Code Commentaries, considering the affective relationship and further insights regarding coding. With this open invitation, we want to stress that Aesthetic Programming is not only a book, but it is also a computational networked object, distributed across other spaces and temporalities, made available to both readers and writers alike.
To begin the thread, we invite you to join us to explore the following questions:
What pedagogical approaches are useful to teach/learn how-to-code, but also to work with (read and write) code through critical and creative action? What are the challenges in practice (“the real-life cases”) of working across engineering and culturalist traditions? And how to cultivate “problem-posing” rather than “problem-solving” through learning to program?
Beyond the solutionist approach of emphasising state-of-the-art technology, big tech normalisation, as well as the ideology of standardisation, efficiency and optimisation that fit into capitalist economy, how might combinations of free and open source ethics, and intersectional feminist/queer politics open up ways of learning to code otherwise?
What other themes and topics are useful to explore in Aesthetic Programming? And what are the implications of forking a book like forking software? How to involve and include local contributors and situated real life cases?