Blog Post

Make 2012 Your Year of Code

This blog post will be about learning to code, but first, a quick introduction: my name is Alex Leavitt, and I'm a first-year PhD student at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California (and one of the new HASTAC Scholars). My first PhD semester kept me busy enough to not participate enough on the HASTAC blog, so I'm hoping to rectify that this coming semester. Follow me on Twitter @alexleavitt or read more about what I'm up to at my website,

Melody Dworak recently blogged 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Budding Digital Humanists, a solid, simple list of to-do's for the new year. Her #6 and #8 (categorized under moderate effort and time-consuming, respectively) highlight one of the pivotal circumstances of all digital humanists: learning technology. Namely, she emphasizes the desire to learn to code -- from figuring out the basics of the programming mindset to engaging with the difficult details of natural language processing or human-computer interaction.

However, I'm here to emphasize this even more: learn to code.

As a social scientist studying the Internet and online media, I've struggled to move from a background in comparative literature and media to learning about the social effects of digital technology through the technology itself. I know that it's one of the most critical research methods as we move forward with new digital techniques for inquiry. But it's also one of the largest barriers for scholars without academic backgrounds in computer science. Realizing I needed a stronger foundation in technology to engage with research questions about technology, over the summer I played around with trying to teach myself Python. This past semester, I took a course on Mobile Technology and Hacking -- the premise being students were coming from a spectrum of technical skill levels, though it became apparent that technical skills were necessary to engage fully with the material. I also attempted to take a course on Databases coordinated for free online by Stanford's computer science department (though I definitely need to dedicate more time to that effort). Regardless, taking the time to learn technical skills like various programming languages takes a lot of time and effort... but it should still be requisite for all budding digital humanities (and social science) scholars looking at online and digital technology.

Luckily, a new initiative could help us all out with this (probably daunting) task. CodeAcademy, a free online tool that provides sets of programming lessons in an easy-to-use, browser-based interface, recently began CodeYear, an initiative to help people learn to code strongly and confidently in the course of one year. As of this writing, almost 300,000 people have signed up for the weekly assignments that are sent to your email address.

If you're like me and have been wanting a good method for learning to program, do yourself a favor and sign up for CodeYear. The first assignment, which summarizes the basics of JavaScript with strings and loops, was just sent out today. Make 2012 your year of code!



Thanks for posting this! Can't wait to begin!


Dear all, forgive me -- about being  a super "new" and "newbie" in here.

In what I do and what I have been research with now a bit more concrete ideas of the sets of communicaiton dynamics -- and that is how I have named it and termed it -- CD. 

This is just one communication perspective that came prior to the area of my present and past concentration of psychology, that had varied from educational psychology, counseling psychology to now after a 35 years of personal research in the are of cross cultural area.

It is not complicated -- by my exposure to languages  and personal experience from China to Brazil and the US and Europe .. and beyond languages, but the co-existence amongst people and cultures.

I have my personal hypothesis about the duo tracks of the human mind -- and the re-difinition of the Greek word "psyche" or "psycho" -- The duo track of hte human mind with both cognitive domain and affective domain -- and thus, the segment of human intellignece/cognition and also the other track -- of -wisdom, heart, soul ... and conscience -- Yes, betweent the Greeks and also between the Asians and Chinese -- futhre extracted by the Romance languages that I am familiar -- Italian, Spanissh, Portuguese and French -- the verb to know can be expressed by both "conocer" and "saber' -- (Spanish and Portuguese , both are very similar ) Thus, saber links to "sabedoria " , it meant wisdom for both languages -- and next --Homo Sapien , from Latin, with the extension to Italian -- "sapienzia" also meant -- wisdom.   Thus the homo sapien, meaning that we do have the wisdom of a thinking men to be qualified us that we have wisdom and intelligence -- and that is something the other specie do not have. 

More over, It is not in the pursuit of "wisdom" and to be competing the intelligence of men --but if we allow us to make some minor hypothesis -- at least, in my field of human psychology -- the lack of emphasis of the humanist psychologiy had not been emerging, much worse, the over emphasis of the Western religion with the "conditionaltiy" of after death and heaven -- the soulful side of men have been kidnapped by most of the Abrahamic monotheistic --- Thus the living souls of men have been tabled into the "after death" issue.

I am also making hypostheis with regards of this "soul, heart and conscience " is of crucial importance --where I would like to see and to explore -- with the two track of thnking, by our Latin/Romance roots may have also in the languages link to the other linguistic groups -- Be that German, Scandinavian, Slavic and even Hebrew --- and this is where I am wondering -- by the absence of a non-religous soul --- where we human could have better engaged -- woth both our souls and intelligent (of mind) -- We can be mroe "efficient" human being when we have the full functions of these two "duo" track of mind/soul, intellgience/wisdom and thus the Affective Domain and its 'brain cells" better activated.  Like what had me inspired by Cathy Davidson , about the"attention" deficit that have created many of the "lone tracks" of thinking -- this generations of those who had begun with the 1985 on youngsters -- In her dicovery of the multi-tasks ability and agility had fascinated me -- She had rediscovered the "dexterity " of men --- and women.  Yes, we are capble to chew gum and dribling basketall, or soccer --- and in many cases, we can also and whistle at the same time -- plus running or kicking, with "images" of the entire team and the position of our players and the players of the other team ------ and this multiple dexterities -- have and will continue to enhance the intelligence of men -- and by recognizing the "affective domain" in that mental track -- We can all become much more efficieny in sharing, giving and jointly producing more new outcomes -- Thus, Collaboration.

I hope my first rounds of colleagues in here, can direct me to the right channels, as I will be more than happy to be also collaborating -- with my five languages, my three dilect of Chinese and my 35 years of business and my global engagement with my personally financed ethnic and communication research -- Be that the Miao tribes in Guizhou, China -- to the Yanomamis and the 100 plus tribes and their "Lingua Franca" of Nheengatu in the upper Rio Negro -- where I have taken my retreat three years ago , fascinated with the many tribes -- the Tucanos, Bare... and many more tribes -- and my personal on going research about China and the voyages of Zhenghe with author like Gavin Menzies -- from UK.

I will be more than happy to offer all my resources to all, as I am totally inspired by Cathy Davidson's influence toward leanring, toward change and the "forever leanring" which was set up long ago by Confucius .


The formation of the CCC - Cross Cultural Center will be established by June this year and the propagation of the Communication Dynamics -- will be something that I know it will be of value to the many teachers, coaches, counselor and psychologists -- Based on the frame work of Educational Psychology -- Inspired by the many educators that camme before me -- Carl Rogers as one of them, then Paulo Freire of Brazil, Wang Yang ming -- who is from my father's village in Zhejiang -- Yuyao. Plus an array of hte forever inspiring natives from all over -- last but not the least -- Darcy Ribeiro of Brazil -- and who else ? Laozi, Buddha and the confluence of many of them -- all channeling into the "unconditional Positive Regards" of Carl Rogers -- the ultimate Zen or Chen man in the West.  A man who had never uttered a word of religion, nor about Zen -- and by me, the last of the great Zen masters who practice his non directives and caring for his students and more.

I will be looking forward to learn from all of you -- and to contribute what I humanly possible to all .


My warm regards and sorry about this intrusion.


Paul Yih






I'm signed up for the mailing list. Thanks for sharing this, Alex! /highfive


I didn't know you were on here! :D

This is just super, I'm in! Thanks for posting...........


To the center of the labyrinth and back again on Ariadne's strings and loops.


Excellent! Thanks for sharing. 


Another super helpful resource is:

Good luck and have fun!



Thanks, Alex. Since coding is about collaboration, and HASTAC is a "collaboratory," I think that this and other calls to code are also calls to collaborate. I give a shout out to this post and Cathy N. Davidson's great post on computational literacy on


Thanks, Alex. Your post has given me motivation to devote more time in learning how to code. Same as you, I am also signing up for a free online course at Stanford's computer science dept, in addition to self-learning a simple java-based F/LOSS programming language called Processing. I just signed up for Code Year and look forward to learning their materials.