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Always Already Programming

Everyone who interacts with computers has in important ways always already been programming them.

Every time you make a folder or rename a file on your computer, the actions you take through moving your mouse and clicking on buttons, translate into text-based commands or scripts which eventually translate into binary.

Why are the common conceptions of what a programmer and user is so divorced from each other? The distinction between programmer and user is reinforced and maintained by a tech industry that benefits from a population rendered computationally passive. If we accept and adopt the role of less agency, we then make it harder for ourselves to come into more agency.

We've unpacked the "user" a little, now let's look at the "programmer." When a programmer is writing javascript, they are using prewritten, packaged functions and variables in order to carry out the actions they want their code to do. In this way, the programmer is also the user. Why is using pre-made scripts seen so differently than using buttons that fire pre-made scripts?

When we all build up and cultivate one another’s agency to shape technology and online spaces, we are contributing to creating a world that is more supportive, affirming, and healing.

∞ The user programs and the programmer uses ∞

∞ It's buttons all the way down, buttons pressing buttons ∞

Thanks for stopping by!


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@suyashjoshi suyashjoshi commented May 2, 2020

Interesting perspective actually, after some thinking it made me realize there is lot of truth here.


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@comeoneileen comeoneileen commented Feb 18, 2021

I heard you present this at Learning To Teach Creative Technologies and came here to thank you for this gift. I've taught kids about programming for years, and a couple of times when I've said, "Programming is giving a computer instructions," they've come back with, "Like when you say, 'Hey Siri, tell me a joke'?". I've always instinctively said, "errrrr, well, no..." but not had a reason either of us found satisfactory. Being able to validate their experience by saying, "Yes, that's a way you've given a computer instructions before - what other ways can you think of?" is a really useful reframing. Thank you for sharing!


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@suyashjoshi suyashjoshi commented Feb 18, 2021

Melanie Hoff - I'm working on a pet project that I call "Future of programming" love to share with you as I publish it later this year. Hopefully it will change the way most people think about programming.

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