Creative Coding Conversations | Paulina Haduong

This summer, we’re interested in diving into creative coding — a playful, collaborative, and open-ended approach to exploring and creating with digital tools.

With so much emphasis on coding and computer science, we wanted to explore what these ideas look like an a creative context. What does it mean to play, experiment, and create with code? How might educators, facilitators, and artists bring these ideas into their practice? We’ll be hosting a professional development workshop at the Brightworks Annex in San Francisco in August to figure out these ideas together.

In anticipation of the workshop, we’ve been asking friends, mentors, and inspirational thinkers who work with creative coding to share their thoughts. We’re excited to share their reflections and learn more with our Creative Coding PD participants, and to continue the conversation beyond August!

Meet Paulina Haduong

Tell us about yourself and your work.
PH: I’m currently working on my PhD in Human Development, Learning, and Teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. My research work is done primarily within the Creative Computing Lab with Dr. Karen Brennan, where we work on developing better understandings of ways to support teachers and students in their creative computing endeavors, primarily through Scratch. My personal interests lie at the intersection of K-12 computing and civic education, exploring participatory forms of research and learning. 

What does creative coding mean to you?
PH: Where to start! Creative coding can be powerful as a way of understanding the world because it means that coders can look at the world and see what’s possible, and not just what is. We live in a world where so much of the technology we use on a daily basis is designed by corporations and individuals who may not have the same needs or desires as us. Often that technology is complex, and the knowledge of how it works is just out of reach. Creative coding, however, offers opportunities for end-users to understand not only how the tools they use daily work, but also how those tools might be used towards their own ends and needs, and changed accordingly. Creative coding offers additional forms of communication and expression of ideas. 

What does creative coding look like in practice?
PH: Grace Lee Boggs once said, "Talk and write in a way that encourages the mutual exchange of ideas and acts like a midwife to people birthing their own ideas.” Creative coding, as a practice, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We need to move away from the stereotype of a “lone cowboy coder” and remember that building community is important and powerful! We need to share with others our failures and successes, so that others might share their failures and successes as well, providing opportunities to uplift one another. 
Practically speaking, this means that creative coding looks like lots of laughter, hastily drawn plans, and just generalized chaos. 

What would you tell someone who is just starting with creative coding?
PH: Creative coding can be challenging, largely because coding may be unfamiliar, and it can be hard to scope ideas down to what you are currently capable of/have time for. For me, finding the right people to talk to, the willingness to sit with failure for (sometimes) a long time, and the right design constraints can be a challenging set of tasks! I try to remember that waiting for flashes of insight and creative genius is too hard, since those flashes may be unpredictable and sporadic at best. Instead, better to develop a regular routine and practice, where progress — even if it’s minimal — is incremental. Your routine and practice might look different from the person’s next to you, but that’s okay — it’s yours.


Interview by Saskia Leggett