Aesthetic Coding

I am going to present a co-author paper (with Shelly Knotts) at School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong as part of the conference “Art Machines: International Symposium on Computational Media Art “.


Date: 5Jan 2019 (Sat)
Time: 11:45 am
Venue: M6094 Future Cinema Studio, L6, Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre, 18 Tat Hong Avenue, Kowloon Tong

See the abstract here :

Learning to code has started to be part of the core strategy in educational curriculum, from primary school to higher education, especially in many developed countries that promote stem education [1][2][3], or at least coding is recognized as an important aspect of science and technology development [4][5]. In the art and design-related disciplines, creative coding emphasizes code as an expressive material [3][6][7][8], and embraces exploration and experimentation of code beyond functional applications. OpenFrameworks, Sonic Pi, p5.js Processing and ml5.js are some examples of open source platforms that facilitate creative and expressive creation through sharing and remixing code. In other words, the community of creative coding expands the usual way of learning to code beyond science and engineering disciplines.

However, with the increasing demand of computational practices in emerging disciplines such as software studies, platform studies, new media studies and digital humanities, coding is increasingly considered as “literacy” [9] to humanities. This perspective of coding literacy becomes a critical tool to understand the history, culture and society alongside its technical level, especially regarding our digital experiences are ever more programmed, both technically and culturally.

This presentation introduces two cases where two artist-coders consider code practice as a mode of aesthetic and critical inquiry, and they teach coding (in a format of workshop delivery) in a critical way through engaging with their artistic and coding practice. This aesthetic approach includes not only introducing coding practically and creatively but also cultivating an open space where discussing and reflecting on computational culture is possible. This is similar to scholar Michael Mates describes as ‘procedural literacy’, which is to connect social and cultural issues with coding through theoretical and aesthetic considerations. In particular, how “the culturally-embedded practices of human meaning-making and technically-mediated processes” are intertwined [10].

By introducing two different hands-on code learning workshops, this presentation examines how aesthetic production or critical thinking can be cultivated and developed through learning to code.  We suggest connecting code with social and cultural issues through performing, showcasing and discussing code-related art and performance as a departure point to develop code or procedural literacy. Without losing sight of exploring code technically and creatively, the two hands-on workshops illustrate how the suggested aesthetic coding approach could be realized in both epistemic and practical levels. The first workshop was conducted in 2017 titled ‘Feminist coding in p5.js | Can Software be Feminist?’ by Winnie Soon [11] and the second case was conducted in 2016 titled “Rewriting the Hack” by a live coder Shelly Knotts and curator Suzy O’Hara [12]. We argue that the practice of aesthetic coding provides epistemic insights to explore computational culture beyond creative coding, shedding lights on how to work with code across disciplines and to consider coding practice as a means to think critically, aesthetically and computationally.


  1. Xie Yu, Michael Fang and Kimberlee Shauman, “STEM Education,” Annual review of sociology41, (2015): 331–357.
  2. Brzozowy Mirosław, Hołownicka Katarzyna, Bzdak Jacek, Tornese Pietro, Lupiáñez-Villanueva Francisco, Vovk Nick, Sáenz de la Torre Lasierra, Juan José, Perelló Josep, Bonhoure Isabelle, Panou Evangelia, Bampasidis Georgios, Verdis, Athanasios, Papaspirou Panagiotis, Kasoutas Michael, Vlachos, Ioannis, Kokkotas, Spyros & Moussas Xenophon, “Making STEM Education attractive for young people by presenting key scientific challenges and their impact on our life and career perspectives,” (paper based on a talk presented at 11th annual International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Valencia, March, 2017). INTED2017 Proceedings,
  3. Chung Bryan, Pong Lam & Soon Winnie, “Computer Programming Education and Creative Arts,” (paper based on a talk presented at ISEA, Hong Kong, 2016) ISEA2016 Conference Proceedings.
  4. Heaver Stuart, “STEM education key to Hong Kong’s ‘smart city’ plan, but long-terms steps must be taken now, experts warn (2017)”, South China Morning Post, accessed August 31, 2018,
  5. Jing Meng, “China wants to bring artificial intelligence to its classrooms to boost its education system (2017)”, South China Morning Post, accessed August 31, 2018,
  6. Soon Winnie, “Executing Liveness: An Examination of the live dimension of code inter-actions in software (art) practice,”(Ph.D. diss., Aarhus University, 2016.)
  7. Maeda John. Creative Code: Aesthetics + Computation (London: Thames & Hudson, 2004).
  8. Peppler Kylie & Kafai Yasmin, “Creative coding: Programming for personal expression,” (paper based on a talk presented at Rhodes, Greece, 2009). The 8th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning 2, (2009): 76-78.
  9. Vee Annette, Coding Literacy: How Computer Programming Is Changing Writing (MIT Press, 2017).
  10. Mateas Michael, “Procedural Literacy: Educating the New Media Practitioner,” The Horizon. Special Issue. Future of Games, Simulations and Interactive Media in Learning Contexts 13(1), 2005.
  11. Soon Winnie. “A Report on the Feminist Coding Workshop in p5.js (2017).” Aesthetic Programming website. Accessed August 31, 2018.
  12. Knotts Shelly & O’Hara Suzy. “Rewriting the Hack (2015)”. Accessed August 31, 2018.


Open Forum: Computational Thinking and Programming Practice

I am organizing and participating an open forum next Friday. See here for details:

Title: Computational Thinking and Programming Practice: Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach Open Forum

Time: 23 Mar 2018 (Friday), 0900-1500

Venue: Digital Living Research Commons (Wiener 030, Building 5347)

The open forum Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn is originally initiated and organised by the School of Poetic Computation since 2016 in the United States. The event aims to bring together educators to explore pedagogy, curriculum development, and how to create environments and tools for learning computation and programming. At Aarhus University, programming has been introduced to both Bachelor and Master students in the areas of Digital Design and Information Studies, which is situated in the School of Communication and Culture. This mini open forum, Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach, explores how computational thinking could be introduced beyond Computer Science and Engineering disciplines, and what are the challenges in teaching programming to arts and humanities? How might programming practice be considered as a mode of aesthetic and critical inquiry? How the production of creative works may help students to understand the essential components of computational thinking?

As part of the Humans and IT research programme, Digital Aesthetics Research Center (DARC) has invited 6 speakers (and two, Prof. Nick Montfort and Anders Visti, are invited from outside AU) to respond to some of the questions above. Each presenter will share their teaching philosophy and challenges for 15 mins and will follow by a discussion. It is more an open forum for sharing and discussing various concerns in relation to computational thinking and programming practice. Anyone is more than welcome to join, especially for those who are interested in computational thinking, digital humanities, creative practices, programming and creative coding, etc.

See more about previous activities on Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach here.

Schedule breakdown:


0905-0915: Introduction by Winnie Soon

0915-0925: Sharing of his US trip on Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach by Stig Møller Hansen

0925-0955: Roman Rädle, PostDoc at AU

0955-1025: Thomas Hvid Spangsberg, PhD fellow at AU


1045-1115: Stig Møller Hansen, Designer, PhD fellow at AU and Lecturer at the Danish School of Media and Journalism

1115-1145: Nick Montfort, Artist and Professor at MIT


1300-1330: Winnie Soon, Artist and Assistant Professor at AU

1330-1400: Anders Visti, Artist and Founder of !=null and ‡ DobbeltDagge based in Aarhus

1400-1500: NETWORKING


Speakers’ Bio:

Stig Møller Hansen, designer, Ph.D. fellow at AU and Lecturer at the Danish School of Media and Journalism. Bought his first computer in 1989 and quickly developed a passion for mixing art and code. Thirty years later, Stig has made his childhood excitement his professional career, teaching programming for graphic designers. He often shares his thoughts, experiences, and expertise at international conferences, workshops, and courses. In his Ph.D., drawing on his background as a trained graphic designer, Stig examines how introductory programming courses in design schools can be contextualized to improve student engagement and retention

Nick Montfort studies creative computing and develops computational art and poetry. His computer-generated books of poetry include #!, the collaboration 2×6, Autopia, and The Truelist. Among his more than fifty digital projects are The Deletionist and Sea and Spar Between, both collaborations. His MIT Press books, collaborative and individual, are: The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam, 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, and Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities, and The Future. He is professor of digital media at MIT and lives in New York and Boston.

Roman Rädle is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Digital Design and Information Studies at Aarhus University in Denmark. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Konstanz in Germany.

His research interests include human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing, and programming education. He recently worked on the use of interactive notebooks in situations where the number of people and devices may vary over time, and how to support fluid transitions between these situations. For example, their use in educational settings where work using notebooks can change from individual work to collaborative group work and vice versa.

Winnie Soon is an artist-researcher-coder-educator who resides in Hong Kong and Denmark. Her works explore themes/concepts around digital culture, including internet censorship, data circulation, image politics, code and real-time processing, etc. Winnie’s projects have been exhibited and presented internationally at museums, festivals, universities and conferences across Europe, Asia and America. Her current research focuses on Computational Thinking, working on a book with Geoff Cox titled “Aesthetic Programming: A Handbook of Software Studies, or Software Studies for Dummies”. She is Assistant Professor at Aarhus University.

Thomas Hvid Spangsberg is a PhD- Fellow in the Department of Digital Design and Information Studies at Aarhus University. He is currently writing his dissertation which is due at the end of August this year. Thomas’ doctoral studies is about how to teach programming and computational thinking to non-STEM students. The main contribution is about a teaching methodology for introductory programming, which is based on natural language teaching and peer instruction. Thomas has taught introductory programming, interaction design and system development at Aarhus University since the spring of 2013 – right after earning his MSC in Digital Design.

Anders Visti is a visual artist working with code. Founder and co-editor of the publishing house * [asterisk] from 2002-12. Founder and editor of the printed web publication ‡ DobbeltDagger and initiator of !=null, a public forum for artists, researchers, developers and hackers using contemporary technology for creative expression and aesthetic inquiry. Currently he is teaching basic coding skills and foundational computing at Funen Art Academy and Jutland Art Academy in Denmark.

Organised by Winnie Soon, Digital Aesthetics Research Center

Humanistic and Computational Thinking Through Practice

I am going to give a talk at School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong as part of the course “Creative Media Colloquium”.

See below for abstract and info:

In this talk, I will present some of my artistic works that span the areas of net art, software-based art, and electronic literature. My works examine the materiality of computational processes that underwrite our experiences and realities in digital culture that touch on cultural-social-political topics, such as Internet censorship, the economy of likes, spam and literary culture, politics of APIs, cultural machines and feminist software.

I consider computational practice as a mode of humanistic inquiry to understand the digital culture – a condition that we are highly engaged with, and surrounded by, software and networked systems. I ask how might we understand cultural systems through computational practice? This talk will unfold the importance of computational practice in my thinking and research, examining the infrastructure and implications of cultural systems.


Date: 12 Jan 2018 (Friday)
Time: 11:30 am
Venue: M6094 Future Cinema Studio, Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre, 18 Tat Hong Avenue, Kowloon Tong