Why is knowing how to code necessary?Posted: September 12, 2011
During the essay “On Building”, Ramsay asserts that in order to be a digital humanist, it is vital that they build and know how to code. Building is something that is essential to any discipline. Therefore, it should not be considered strange nor counterproductive for Ramsay to require building to be one of the essential characteristics of Digital Humanities. In any field, a final product of some shape or form, be it a new methodology, argument, or way of thinking, is almost a requirement for being considered productive. For example, in order to be considered a biologist, it is essential to be actively doing research in order to discover more about the function of living creatures. If one is simply learning knowledge of biology, then they are not a biologist. I find it odd, however, that he did not spend more time defending his assertion that knowing how to code is essential to being a digital humanist. Once more, I will use biology as an example. A biologist uses many tools while exploring the world of knowledge that is stored by living creatures. Although some of these tools may be straightforward to construct, others, such as a scanning electron microscope, may require more knowledge of chemistry and physics than biology. Even though a biologist could never construct a scanning electron microscope, he would still be considered a biologist. To make another comparison, a scanning electron microscope also requires computer programming that allows the biologist to interpret the data produced by the tool. Similarly, the biologist probably has no idea how the programming works. So the question is: what makes digital humanities unique? Why is it so important that digital humanists know how to code and therefore know how to construct their own tools? If Ramsay’s assertion were to be extended to every other discipline, there would be very few “true” practicers of any discipline.