TITLE: An Opportunity to Learn, Born of Deprivation
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: June 26, 2013 2:30 PM
Earlier this summer, my daughter was talking about something
one of her friends had done with Instagram. As a smug
computer weenie, I casually mentioned that she could do
She replied, "Don't taunt me, Dad."
You see, no one in our family has a cell phone, smart or
otherwise, so none of us use Instagram. That's not a big deal
for dear old dad, even though (or perhaps because) he's a
computer scientist. But she is a teenager growing up in an
entirely different world, filled with technology and social
interaction, and not having a smart phone must surely seem
like a form of child abuse. Occasionally, she reminds us so.
This gave me a chance to explain that Instagram filters are,
at their core, relatively simple little programs, and that she
could learn to write them. And if she did, she could run them
on almost any computer, and make them do things that even
Instagram doesn't do.
I had her attention.
So, this summer I am going to help her learn a little Python,
using some of the ideas from media computation. At the end
of our first pass, I hope that she will be able to manipulate
images in a few basic ways: changing colors, replacing colors,
copying pixels, and so on. Along the way, we can convert
color images to grayscale or sepia tones, posterize images,
embed images, and make simple collages.
That will make her happy. Even if she never feels the urge
to write code again, she will know that it's possible. And
that can be
I have let my daughter know that we probably will not write code
that does as good a job as what she can see in Instagram or
Photoshop. Those programs are written by pros, and they have
evolved over time. I hope, though, that she will appreciate
how simple the core ideas are. As James Hague said in
a recent post,
then key idea in most apps require relatively few lines of
code, with lots and lots of lines wrapped around them to
handle edge cases and plumbing. We probably won't write much
code for plumbing... unless she wants to.
Desire and boredom often lead to creation. They also lead to
the best kind of learning.