The Codecademy “Hack and Yack” Project

One of the tensions in Digital Humanities scholarship that I personally identify with is the so-called “Hack versus Yack” tension. Without going into a lot of detail here about all of that, what it boils down to is a need to both theorize and contemplate what it means for the “humanities” to go “digital,” and also to make stuff in terms of computer code/applications/programming/etc. to realize the connection between the “humanities” and the “digital.” I think a similar tension has always existed in the computers and writing community, too.

Obviously, it isn’t an either/or kind of construction. Still, one without the other isn’t very useful, and since most of what we’re doing this term actually falls into the “yacking” category of things (that is, a lot of reading and discussing about the digital humanities) and also since most of you probably don’t have a lot of computer coding/computer language experiences, I thought I’d create an assignment where you can try out some “hacking” tutorials on your own. And that’s where Codecademy comes in.

Here’s how this assignment is going to work:

  • First, you need to start by signing up for a free account at Codecademy, which is a great web site/service that is a collection of pretty basic computer coding tutorials.
  • Second, pick a Codecademy challenge that is right for you. When in doubt what to pick, ask me for some help, though there are three important things to remember here:
    •  You want to pick something that will be “something new” for you, and that’s probably going to vary from person to person. For example, if you’ve already learned the basics of making a web site with HTML and CSS, then do something else.
    • Most of these tutorials are labeled “beginner,” though I would argue that there are definitely some of the “beginner” tutorials that will be easier or harder than others.
    • Most of these tutorials say they can be completed between three and five hours, though there are some that are a lot more time-consuming than others.
  • Third, work through and finish the tutorial, at least to the best of your ability. Two things to keep in mind here:
    • You want to make an honest effort to do these on your own and to get the satisfaction of completion, but if you get stuck or frustrated, let me know. And just remember the most important part here is the effort.
    • A few of these tutorials are frankly kind of “buggy,” so if you can’t finish them, it might not be your fault.
  • Fourth, write a brief essay about your experiences. What did you learn? What frustrated you? What made you feel proud of yourself? What would you do differently? And so forth.
  • For the most part, this is an assignment you are going to do on your own and along side the other projects of the class. If you want to, you can find others in the class who are working on the same tutorial– a coding buddy, if you will. We might have some time to work during class sessions, too.
  • This is due on March 31! All you will need to turn in is your essay (as a Google Doc, of course); I will assume that if you were able to write clearly about your experiences with Codecademy that you actually had those experiences, so you don’t need to do anything else to prove that for the assignment.