By Marisa Iovino
Computers have been a space for self-discovery and exploration throughout my life. From instant messaging my friends to using the web to complete research papers, I basically grew up in front of my computer. Despite this lifelong relationship, I never learned how computers worked or how to read or write programming languages. There was always something intimidating about coding. I assumed it was just too hard for me to understand.
But then I heard about the GCDI Digital Research Institute (DRI), a free five-day workshop where CUNY Graduate Center (GC) students, faculty, and administrators can learn the fundamentals of Python or R. The intensive workshops are led by the GC Digital Fellows, who are graduate students across disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. For the first time, I thought, “maybe coding is for everybody.” I applied and, thankfully, was accepted.
The DRI was exactly what I needed to get started with programming. The workshops provide a glimpse into programming languages, various software, and ways to problem-solve your code. We spent the first-day writing command line scripts on our computer terminals. The Digital Fellows explained that the commands basically allowed us to speak with your computer. I was hooked. The Digital Fellows made the experience totally accessible, breaking down the materials and helping participants walk through the code. The environment made everyone feel confident that they could learn to program.
For the remainder of the week, I participated in the Python track. The Digital Fellows demonstrated how to use Python in humanities research. Their approach made the entire experience accessible. I discovered that Python is truly a language, not some esoteric formula. It is a way to analyze data, identify patterns and trends, and transform those findings so people can understand. Again, I found myself shocked by how straightforward coding is. The Digital Fellows are to thank for that.
Coding, like any language, requires practice. It is a lifelong journey, not dissimilar to my relationship with computers. Since the DRI workshop, I have returned to the resources the Digital Fellows shared that week and reached out for project advice. The Digital Research Institute’s workshops are a fantastic opportunity to learn the fundamentals of coding alongside a supportive community.
Marisa Iovino is Master’s Candidate at CUNY QC and an Interactive Technology and Pedagogy certificate candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center.