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Coordinated by Mark Marino (USC), Jeremy Douglass (UCSB), Sarah Ciston (USC), and Zach Mann (USC). Sponsored by the Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab (USC), and the Digital Arts and Humanities Commons (UCSB).

A Critical Code Studies Syllabus

edited February 2022 in 2022 General

During our LIVE session on Friday, @SarahCiston brought up the question of what a Critical Code Studies syllabus would look like. This year we are featuring several threads for books that would fit perfectly in such a course. What are books and assignments or even a structure for such a course given student cohorts of different makeups (majors, level of education, experience with programming). Also, if you've taught such a course, please, share anything you'd like here. We can also move resources from this list onto a page at or

Initial texts:
* Critical Code Studies, Marino
* Aesthetic Programming, Soon and Cox
* Exploratory Programming, Montfort
* Poetic Operations, cárdenas
* 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, Montfort et al.

Looking for:
* Book recommendations
* Assignments
* Course outlines
* Any other materials that might prove useful


  • File this under other materials that might prove useful, I'd add this can be a space for strategies around teaching and learning critical code personally or professionally as well. Some examples are already jumping out in other threads. Here are few highlights I saw...

    From @nickm on Exploratory Programming 2nd ed:

    My approach is to introduce textual work, both generative and analytical, before visual creative coding. However the book moves across different media, so there are interleaved chapters on text as well as image and, near the end, a little invitation to sound/music. The book also covers how one can analyze texts and images in addition to doing textual and visual generation — hence the “Arts and Humanities” of the title. [...] There are a few reasons for this. I hope to show that programming is a practice that spans particular languages, although some are more suitable than others for particular types of inquiry and creativity.

    Personally, as a writer coming to programming, I really appreciate this text-based entry point, since I struggled at first with the Processing language's emphasis on visual creativity (just couldn't get my head around 3D points in space!). Python was when programming clicked for me and then I could go back to Javascript and Processing with fresh eyes.

    From @drsantos on internal barriers and types of knowledge:

    I also create "recipes" for myself (read: creative prompts) that allow me to explore code as a new medium for writing poetry and experimental prose. At the end of the day, breaking those barriers is breaking those barriers within my own practice and what has stopped me from making due to shame or guilt for not having a specific type of knowledge.

    From @annatito on assumed knowledge and making mistakes:

    One of the things that I do when teaching programming is try to highlight the issues we have with assumed knowledge, often in first year first semester programming classes they assume a lot of prerequisite exposure to technical problem solving, command line/terminal literacy. In any of my instructions I tend to have things as major steps then under each major step is all the sub steps and any gotcha’s or possible errors. This allows those that are literate in this space to stick to the high level instructions while those who are less literate can follow the detailed ones. I also highlight mistakes just as much as successes rather than hide them it is important for people who are new to programming to see people making mistakes, if they think everything works first time they will think they are not good enough and give up.

    The thread in week 3 about access has a lot to offer a discussion of what could be included in a Critical Code Studies syllabus and classroom. I was particularly struck by this strategy to offer major steps with sub steps and gotchas. It makes me wonder if a similar approach to teaching the theoretical/critical concepts, as well as the technical ones, would be helpful too. And I especially appreciate the comment about cultivating the space for mistake-making.

    The question of syllabi and resource sharing can also open up the floor to questions like: What is the overall environment of inquiry a Critical Code Studies classroom strives to create? And what practices get us there?

  • edited February 2022

    Maybe one of the outputs of the CCSWG'22 could be a shared platform (eg. a blog, a website, a social media page, a page at or where the community could collectively build 'A Critical Code Studies Syllabus'?

    I also leave here this example of The Syllabus, developed by Evgeny Morozov, Ekaitz Cancela, Chiara Di Leone, Gustavo Lamounier, Nikolai Maksimchuk, Fedir Orlov, Michele Palmia, Marc Shkurovich, and Edward Tomordy.

  • I've been wanting to read Critically Conscious Computing: Methods for Secondary Education by Amy J. Ko, Anne Beitlers, Brett Wortzman, Matt Davidson, Alannah Oleson, Mara Kirdani-Ryan, Stefania Druga. (Thanks to @xinxin for introducing me to this!) If anyone is interested in continuing a reading group after the session ends, I'd love to stay in touch.

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