DIY: Do you even code? - Tools for the 21st century artist

Last week the internet celebrated its 25th birthday. But apparently 25 years weren’t enough for most of us to get a hang on how the internet’s algorithms are working. Sure we’ve heard of programming languages, but it is still an intellectual minority which is able to speak python, ruby, c, or java.

Coding is not only a good skill to have if you’re planning on a career in the tech industry or create your own online portfolio, but artists are also increasingly using programming as a tool of artistic expression. The opportunities of writing creative code are abundant if not infinite and programming is actually fun once your computer eventually does what you told it to do. 

In order to get a basic understanding of programming and of how computers work, I visited a workshop hosted by the Rails Girls Berlin. What was different about this workshop was the fact that it was hold for women and LGBT only. The first computers were only operated by women, who were equally called computers, but with the advent of home computers and the internet the numbers of women in tech dropped substantially. The Rails Girls Berlin try with their initiative to get women back into coding by creating an environment in which maybe some of the participants feel more comfortable asking questions, or making mistakes.

Of course a one day workshop isn’t enough to learn how to write an algorithm which will write articles for me, or build an AI which is producing paintings, but it is enough to understand the very basics of programming. Eventually in order to learn coding, it is mostly a matter of trying it. So instead of turning into fully skilled programmers the workshop left us with some first tools to get started by ourselves.

We first got an introduction to how computers are working, because at a very low level the programming just consists out of the binary code, the zeroes and the ones. Build on top of that are several different levels of programming languages, which serve different functions. Within the workshop we took a closer look at Ruby on Rails, a high level language which has been used for many popular websites like Airbnb and SoundCloud.

A good way of getting started in a playful way is through games, it easily introduces the player to the very basics of Ruby without being overly complicated. If you are rather interested in building your own website you can try this tutorial which will introduce you to the world of HTML and CSS. This won’t be enough to make your own AI art, but at least give you an idea of what programming is, and maybe it catches your fancy?


The workshop “Grundlagen der Computerei” took place at the 26th of August as part of the #LIMA16 Gendermania conference. The Rails Girls Berlin organize regular Code and Cake sessions for beginners and advanced programmers alike.

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