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A Note on Procedural Literacy

The Clearance of the Porcelain Dogs
The Clearance of the Porcelain Dogs flickr photo by mcmorgan08 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

We don’t need no coding knowledge to read. Except

In this view, programming has almost no connection with theoretical and philosophical considerations, with concept and aesthetics, with a design focus on human action and interpretation. This attitude is often adopted by new media scholars and practitioners, including game designers and game studies scholars, who may assume that the “mere” technical details of code can be safely bracketed out of the consideration of the artifact. …

By procedural literacy I mean the ability to read and write processes, to engage procedural representation and aesthetics, to understand the interplay between the culturally-embedded practices of human meaning-making and technically-mediated processes. With appropriate programming, a computer can embody any conceivable process; code is the most versatile, general process language ever created. Hence, the craft skill of programming is a fundamental component of procedural literacy, though it is not the details of any particular programming language that matters, but rather the more general tropes and structures that cut across all languages.

Procedural Literacy: Educating the New Media Practitioner – Michael Mateas | ETC Press

One Comment

  1. mcmorgan mcmorgan

    This post is a response to a recent exchange on the Tinderbox forum about mastering Tinderbox. Using TBX, it seems, demands thinking about procedures – what Berry and Fagerjord call “computational thinking”. I’d suggest that understanding what TBX is abut or why that would be valuable demands valuing procedural literacy. Procedural literacy is not something we’ve taught or valued in the humanities. It’s been underground.

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