DARE TO SAY IT
TEXT HENRIIKKA UOTILA & KAROLIINA WALLDÉN
On joy and frustration (There and Back Again)
Linda Liukas, spokeswoman of ‘whimsical world of computers’. What makes programming joyful to you?
Many things! To begin with, unlike the general assumption, for me programming is a highly social activity. Sharing tips and screw-ups with friends is a lot of fun.
I love it when you type a line of code and the computer executes it precisely. Also, all the aimless exploring and the excitement. You copy and paste the code together and you never know what happens. Then you press enter, and what a burst of joy follows if it works!
When I stepped into the world of programming I felt that majority of the guiding material was planned for those initially gifted in mathematical logic, for people that learn easily by sitting alone at the computer. It lacked a playful perspective — the idea that technology can be an instrument for self-expression. That was one of the reasons that led me to write Hello Ruby.
(Our fluster is gone at this point.)
Programming is an often used example of self-directed learning. Managing one’s own learning and the changing role of the institutions are hot topics in education at the moment. We are curious: what do you think about academic degrees? Do we need them anymore?
No one can blame you for ‘not giving it a try’, considering all the diverse things you have studied in your life. But is there something that has taken a lot of daring for you to learn? How did you gain the courage?
Yes! Definitely. I’m not a very risk-taking type of a person. I don’t play poker or skydive -- ‘risk-adrenaline’ is just not really my thing.
Each time I start something new I get very nervous. It is a part of the process. I felt that, for example, a couple of years ago, when I studied what publishing is, and now, when I am trying to learn tv production.
But I have started to think that actually, a way bigger risk than that of trying things out and sometimes failing, is that of nothing ever changing and staying the same. I think it is characteristic of our time to reward you when you dare to try something new.
You have earlier pointed out that you would like to consider yourself as the ‘BJÖRK of the programming world’.
Oh! Yes, I adore Björk! I’m delighted by the way she has wandered into her own curiosity. Such energy, it always makes me feel refreshed.
The icelandic pop culture icon is, like you, known for her very eclectic career. She has described how she feels at once both -- very brave and very scared. She states that fear is a very essential feeling, something that teaches us about ourselves. Do you think being scared is necessary?
Yes! I think it is very essential. If I didn’t fear anything I would certainly lose much of my sensitivity; the way I perceive this world.
Another crucial emotion is frustration. The annoyance you feel when your work or handprint is not good enough, I sense that constantly. But then, when I look back, like when looking at the books I’ve done four years ago, I can see how much I’ve actually gone further. I believe that if you never feel frustration or fear, you are doing things that are too easy.
You have the perfect viewpoint to peek at the future of education. So what’s going on there, from your point of view?
It is funny how I never really guessed I would be working on education. I’m a grandchild of a teacher but I didn’t have an academic background on teaching. Only much later I’ve studied all the classics. It has been very motivating to understand that none of the things I do are actually new, I just do them in a new context.
So at the same time when I want to be Björk-like, I would also like to be ‘MARIA MONTESSORI of the programming world’. I hope I can do this for twenty years -- books are just the beginning.
When I look to the future of education, I see a great amount of excitement, but also piles of -- once again -- frustration.
While starting out with Hello Ruby, I remember how frustrated I felt. I wondered why all the schools just do not start to teach programming straight away? Why a school cannot be an app that spreads virally everywhere?
Later, I have started to feel great gratitude from the fact that education is so resistant and culturally related concept. It means that the changes cannot be too fast and sharp.
It is great that we have young people who have the courage to throw themselves to create innovations. But it is also great that those innovations evolve more slowly than apps that are made for solving some minor local problem. I like how it forces us, as a trade, to think above and beyond and in-depth.
Finally, we dare to ask, what do you want to learn next?
Currently I’m participating teacher training in updating education programs in the States, Asia and Australia. It is so interesting! My family is not always so pleased that I travel all the time, so I’m happy with the flexibility of the distance learning opportunities.
Also, writing the Ruby books is always a learning experience too! Next one will be published in August 2018 and it is a story about artificial intelligence and machine learning.
CALL-AND-RESPONSE, crossover tunes of curiosity.