Week 1: My Coding Origins

I do not have substantial experience with coding. I’m not exactly computer illiterate, but I’m also not comfortable with building something from the ground up. I exist in this somewhat precarious middle-ground where I can sometimes “get by” through a combination of code-borrowing, Lynda.com tutorials, and trial-and-error. But I do not feel as though I always understand what I’m really doing to reach my desired endpoint. For me, there’s still a significant chasm between what I want to do and how I go about achieving it (or at least achieving a semblance of it).

My coding “career,” in sum:

  • HTML: I started a slip-shod website in the mid-2000s that functioned to display my artwork and drawings in a fairly limited and not-entirely-pleasing way.
  • I’ve played around with Text Wrangler a bit, and was pleased to see it mentioned in Paul Ford’s piece, but was then worried that that automatically tagged me as someone that Ford wouldn’t like to hang out with.
  • I’ve installed and maintained sites using Drupal, which is fairly straightforward, but has never felt entirely “creative” to me, which sounds bizarre and probably says more about my own conception of creativity than anything else.
  • I took a Coursera class in Python but didn’t complete all of the work because I (a) didn’t prioritize the class and (b) didn’t have any real bearing on the context in which Python would be used. It felt like I was literally doing algebra in a dark void (represented by the black box in which I was typing script).

So here I am.

In relation to my experience of English studies, I have found that coding, or doing work in the digital humanities, has consistently required a level of concision and efficiency that I hadn’t previously encountered using the tools of pen and paper or Microsoft Office. Although there are obviously ways of incorporating parameters in writing (word or page limits, etc.), the physical tool does not enforce these restrictions in the latter examples. However, in coding I’m consistently pushed to limit words or decide what is really worth including or what is expected to be included within the boundaries of a webpage or a blog post or a Tweet (I’m asking myself about media ideologies, even as I write this post).


Hello, and welcome to the website for the course Computational Media, ENGLIT 2850, a grad class taught by Prof. Annette Vee in the English Department of the University of Pittsburgh.

This website and blog is public, and will soon contain lots of smart and weird things posted by the students in the class (maybe you!). For now, you can check out the syllabus.