Thoughts on Code

I first watched this quite old TED talk by Clay Shirky a few months ago, and have just revisited it, seeing as it has a lot to do with what I’m doing at the moment.

It is about the power of collaboration as opposed to institutions, and he explains how the internet has allowed a system whereby huge amounts of people are enabled to make contributions, no matter how little, to something bigger. In short, he says, we have only been consumers for the last 50 years or so – that was all that the mass media allowed us to do and we got very good at it. But now we have tools to produce as well – and what’s more, we can share all this stuff and more easily work together.

One example he gave was that of “Ushahidi”, a website that was created to accumulate news in Kenya from users to give people first-hand knowledge of what was going on in a government-enforced media blackout. This is great.

Shirky goes on to say that it took just two web developers 72 hours to build this thing. Which is kind of amazing too – the amount of effort required to achieve so much for so many people is a real testament to the power of the internet to get people to collaborate.

The thing is, that it still required two people of a very much professional training and standard to make the thing. Personally, I know absolutely nothing about how to build a website. Coding is essential to how web applications are built, and as such, makes the web a more elitist platform than you might think. It is (very literally) a completely different language, and not an easy one to understand at that. The internet may well be quite democratic and give people the tools to produce their own content, but if you can’t code, your creations can only be within certain set parameters.

It is after all, a language, if not a particularly easy one to master. But perhaps it needs to be taught in schools, just like we teach French or German. Its certainly more relevant to children’s futures than Latin.

Anyway. Just a thought.

One response to “Thoughts on Code

  1. Exactly – teach it in schools! But who’s going to do the teaching? It’s a frighteningly secret language as yet. (I’m only repeating what you said, of course.) I greatly admire your website.

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