Homework Week 1 – Part I

Computation + Me

Unlike most people born in the late 70s, I’ve never known life without a computer. My father was a programmer in the Army before I was born and some of my earliest memories as child were learning how to load the 5.25″ floppy into the drive without bending it and making sure not to touch the exposed middle part of the disk (or twirl it around as if it were a type of hula hoop for my finger.)

Starting so early instilled an extreme sense of confidence and comfort when it came to using a personal computer that has stuck with me throughout my life (be it for good or, on occasion, bad.) In 1995, the year I started college at a major university, I discovered the wonders of the World Wide Web and had a resident advisor cool enough to show me how to create my very first web page using HTML; I’ve been enamored with how accessible the power–and potential–of coding is ever since.

Around the same time I began to learn about HTML, my appreciation for the power of computers deepened as I also discovered how to log onto Internet Relay Chat (IRC). It wasn’t long before I realized that IRC was a window to a new part of the world, one I’d subconsciously longed for and which helped me come out as a gay man. Through the interactions IRC allowed me to have, my eyes were opened to a supportive community full of people I had falsely made assumptions about based on slurs, jokes, and general falsehoods I had heard growing up. In the process of learning more about them, I learned much more about myself.

This experience with technology would not have been possible just 15 years before. It, along with many other implementations of technologies, opened the door for the exposure and sharing of information and culture that is powerful and life-changing. From life, I’ve learned that positive personal associations and experiences both foster understanding and breed appreciation and acceptance–and technology can be an influential means to creating such change.

A major part of the impetus that lead me to apply to ITP was knowing that, through classes such as ICM, I could learn on a more formal level how to have an active understanding of–and role in–the creation of code and content, allowing me to perpetuate the kind of impact I’ve witnessed through my own experiences. I’m excited to be taking Introduction to Computational Media this semester as I feel it will lay the groundwork for me to get the most out of time here at ITP.

Screenshot showing an example of how WeFeelFine.org scours blogs for information related to feelings and displays it graphically.
An example of how WeFeelFine.org scours blogs for information related to feelings and displays it graphically.Source: number27.org

Specifically, I’d love to learn how to create interfaces which are elegant and enjoyable to use and which open the door to exposing others to inspiring, informational, and, hopefully, life-improving subject matter. As I’m not a particularly strong reader, I tend to be drawn to more visual sources of inspiration. One site that has long stuck in my mind is WeFeelFine.org, a site designed to scour internet blog posts to collect information on how people are ‘feeling’ and transform that information into a graphic representation. I’m also especially drawn to works that display interactive/live-updated infographics or data displayed in unique/intuitive ways, such as works found on sites like The Seas of Plastic, The Internet in Real-Time, Visual Thesaurus, and Music-Map.