Practicum 12; breaking a rule, being real cool

For this practicum, I played around with the Monkeys Writing Shakespeare code and had a lot of fun seeing how, where, and when the code fell apart and stopped functioning. By merely playing with the code’s replacement function and changing the possible word bank with a variety of emojis, I learned a fascinating lesson about the process of breaking and building things in coding and Digital Humanities in general. I learned users often take certain elements behind a digital product for granted, meaning we are left unaware of the complexity behind some of the more intuitive and straightforward functions and concepts like the Monkeys Writing Shakespeare code. I think breaking past this underlying assumption about technology is essential to Digital Humanities as a field since it forces me to view digital artifacts as something more than a finished product. Instead, digital objects are also understood in relation to their components, as well. I personally don’t think Digital Humanities is all about breaking things. Still, I feel that the act of seeing how any work is flawed, either in its execution or its argument, is a vital component of any humanities discipline. And as technologies hold more considerable importance in the current times, I think the breaking mentality would empower the Digital Humanities with a unique understanding which most fields of study would overlook.

Below is a screenshot of my emoji altered code (click to enlarge):

When first glancing at the code, I thought it only be a fun and straightforward task to replace the words in the word bank with emojis, and then everything would run smoothly. But as I added more emojis and took away actual words, the code’s functionality eventually ceased. Running the code merely replaced the same few words with the same few emojis. Instead of having the text evolve into a massive cluster of emojis, the text was only littered with the same ‘💩’, ‘🐉’, ‘🐠’, ‘🐼’, ‘🐫’, ‘🐄’ emojis. By breaking the code’s functionality and witnessing the lack of variety between all the other emojis, I was able to understand how a central code’s primary function/gimmick relied on the sample text’s nouns, verbs, pronouns, word length, and more.

Regarding coding or building in the Digital Humanities field, I believe those skills can help but shouldn’t necessarily be an absolute requirement. For myself, I was fortunate enough to be around some coders growing up who taught me the basics of code (which I forgot) and the general outline of the coding/computer science mentality. These are all ideas and lessons I eventually re-encountered throughout my years living with the internet, which is probably why I was still able to navigate and break the Monkey code without a sense of anxiety, but with a playful feeling of curiosity.