Code to make a point; code to make change; on newshacking

To me, the big question for any voluntary effort — anything you are doing that you don’t have to do — is this: 

Why bother?

Why bother learning to code?  I mean, no lie, it’s hard.  It’s not impossible, and you can get somewhere useful in 8 weeks if you start in the right place — but it’s still hard.  

I want to learn to code because a lot of things piss me off.  

I believe a program can stand in opposition to Things That Suck, just like a documentary, a work of art, or a protest march.  

That’s why I like work like this, which shows where the money goes when it comes to Congresscritters and their free cars.  

Or this, which is an Android app to help vets with PTSD.  

I wanna code because SHIT IS BROKEN.  I want to code because corruption is real, because people are getting thrown out of their houses, because veterans aren’t getting what they deserve, because racism is real and has real effects, because yes it does matter when you cancel a bus line, because it’s really hard to shut a computer program up, because you can’t say it’s an isolated incident when there’s a bigass Google Map in your face showing you it’s not.  

And journalism’s response to the biggest problems of our age — global warming, global health, economic crises — are, all too often, pathetic: he said/she said talking heads on TV, tearjerker anecdotes about one person who loses their house to a flood or rapaciously unethical lenders standing in for THE VAST TSUNAMI OF PEOPLE GETTING F**D OVER BY THESE THINGS.  No wonder facts just seem to bounce off so many Americans, and so many of the powerful are able to claim that nothing needs to be done when doing nothing suits their moneyed interests.  

Our age doesn’t just NEED computational journalism: it DEMANDS it. 

I will also, on occasion, want to code because SHIT IS FUNNY and PEOPLE ARE GOOD and because EVERYBODY NEEDS A FLUFFY KITTY AND A DRUNKEN MOOSE.  

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About Me

Lisa Williams

Founder of | Winner of Knight News Challenge | Center for Civic Media, MIT Media Lab | Cambridge, MA | @lisawilliams on Twitter | lisawilliams on Github