Creative Coding Conversations | Ricarose Roque

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, as well as an image of what creative coding means to them. We’re excited to share their reflections and learn more with our Creative Coding PD participants, and to continue the conversation beyond August!

Meet Ricarose Roque

Tell us about yourself and your work.
RR: I’m an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in Information Science, and I lead the Family Creative Learning project and Creative Communities research group. I’m interested in the role that social support (families, peers, and communities) plays in engaging young people in creative computing, especially young people from underrepresented groups. 

What does creative coding mean to you?
RR: When people are able to create things they care about, they see themselves as creators and they see ways they can shape the world around them. We’re surrounded by so many technologies that we use to talk, to look up information, or to help us do things. What I find compelling about creative coding is how empowering it feels to to build something from nothing and share it with others. 

What role does social support play with creative computing?
RR: When I think about engaging underrepresented groups, it’s not enough to build up the individual — to build up their skills and interests alone. Social networks that consist of family members and educators play an important role in supporting them. To support young people in this endeavor, they need opportunities where they can have first-hand experiences with coding to realize what the experience feels like (and the hard thinking that can go into it) but also to feel how empowering and playful it can be.

What does creative coding look like in practice?
RR: Using the Family Creative Learning workshops as an example, we imagine kids and their family members working together on projects that build on their interests and cultural backgrounds. People often focus on the coding, but how we design the experience really matters. We think a lot about making sure we design activities that are structured enough so families can get started and open so they can create whatever kind of project they imagine together. We want to design a space so that it’s easy to collaborate, but also so that the space feels welcoming and inviting, especially for people who might not imagine themselves as coders. We think about our role as facilitators: we’re there to guide and cheerlead them, but not there to direct their goals or tell them exactly how to do things. This can be frustrating at first, but the families see that we’re there to support them and help them realize their ideas. 

What would you tell someone who is just starting with creative coding?
RR: I always think it’s important to experience it yourself first — to experience exploring, experimenting, getting stuck, getting unstuck, reaching out to others for help, and maybe even working together on projects. Don’t be afraid about getting it right. Tap into the joy and excitement in making something that you’re interested in and care about. If you’re unsure how to do that, you might make something for someone you care about instead.


Post & interview by Saskia Leggett