Episode 011: Introducing Art Into STEM Education with Amy Wibowo


Coraline Ada Ehmke | Jessica Kerr | Sam Livingston-Gray | Astrid Countee

Guest Starring: Amy Wibowo
BubbleSort Zines

Show Notes:

00:16 – Welcome to “Trapped in a BinarySort!” …we mean, “Greater Than Code!”

01:21“STEAM” Education

02:36 – Getting Involved in Technology and Being a Maker

05:33 – Making a Zine and Making it (and other things) Inclusive

Books With Pictures
[Kickstarter] BubbleSort Zines 2.0: moar computer science zines!

We are (currently) listener supported!
Support us via Patreon
Thank you, Thomas Schaefer, for your support!

14:03 – Passion for Sailor Moon and How it Relates to Teams and Friendship

18:21 – Introducing Art Into STEM

Amy Wibowo: Sweaters as a Service – Adventures in Machine Knitting @ Madison+ Ruby
This Long-Lost Nintendo Knitting Machine Would Have Let You Make Sweaters With Your NES

25:36 – Making Websites as a Full-time Career

28:22Human-computer Interaction (HCI) Research


Astrid: Pay more attention to the hobbies that you have. You might be able to build a career out of it!

Sam: Seeking inspiration in other forms of art.

Coraline: Art gives us empathy for other people’s experiences.

Jessica: Art is not an alternative to technology. It is an integral part to doing technology well.

Amy: Art as admitting you don’t know everything and wanting to create a little bit of alternate reality that other people can look into and understand.

Please leave us a review on iTunes!


CORALINE:  Hello and welcome to the episode 11 of ‘Trapped in a BinarySort’. I’m Coraline Ada Ehmke and I’m joined today by Astrid Countee.

ASTRID:  Coraline, that is not the name of the podcast.

CORALINE:  What are you talking about?

ASTRID:  You know it’s Greater Than Code.

CORALINE:  I’m old and forgetful.

ASTRID:  [Laughs] Well, I’m not so let me introduce the lovely Jessica Kerr.

JESSICA:  Good morning. I am happy to be Greater Than Code today, especially because I’m here with Sam Livingston-Gray.

SAM:  Good morning everybody and it’s about to snow in Portland and people are freaking out. Meanwhile, we’re joined today by Amy Wibowo. Amy is a programmer/artist who cares about STEM and STEAM Education and making the world better through human-centric design and technology.

She’s the founder of BubbleSort Zines – zines that explain computer science concepts via drawings and stories and they are super cool and adorable. Previously, she was a web dev Airbnb, did machine learning research at Honda Research Institute in Japan and human computer interaction research at the University of Tokyo. Welcome to the show, Amy.

AMY:  Thank you so much and thank you for having me.

CORALINE:  Amy, everyone that I think is familiar with the term STEM but what is the term STEAM mean?

AMY:  That just introduces an art into STEM and the idea is that the two should be [inaudible] the other in classrooms.

CORALINE:  Is that something that feels very close to your heart?

AMY:  Definitely.

CORALINE:  Why do you think art is so important?

AMY:  Personally, I grew up loving both drawing and crafting, and math and science, and always thought of growing up that I was in quest to choose one or the other. I never wanted to just use one or the other. For example, when I came time to deciding what to study in college, I felt like I had a bunch of schools that I was thinking about going to that were very math and science-focused and a bunch of schools that were very art-focused.

I felt like everyone was telling me to tap one or the other. I love the idea of STEAM Education that tells you, you don’t have to pick one or the other, and in fact, it’s going to enrich your understanding, if you devote yourself to understand both at the same time.

CORALINE:  I definitely want to talk more about the integration of art in technology a little later but could you tell us how you got involved in technology?

AMY:  Sure. I really love making things as a kid and that was making anything from drawing, sewing little pillows, and teaching myself how to touch type and making little games from, I think I had this book called ‘Teach Yourself to Code in 21 Days’ and they had a bunch of example games. I would make like Tic-Tac-Toe or little shooter games.

When I got into junior high, I learned how to make websites. I think this was the first thing that I learned how to make that I felt like an integration of my interest in art and my interest in technology so I would code websites and also, I would want to make all of the original content. I wrote my own content and did all of my own graphics in Photoshop and a hell lot of fun with that. Then I never thought that web development would be available as a full-time career so that was exciting.

ASTRID:  Amy, I think that’s great that you brought up that you were the maker as a kid because I feel like this is something that a lot of people can relate to. Especially me, I was similar and I made a lot of things. But technology as a career is never presented to those outside the industry as you’re a maker.

I feel like it’s an interesting concept that it’s always talked about more as a very science-y, very technical job but not a job where you’re being creative and making things. Why do you think that there’s not more focus on technology as being a career that is about making and less so much about just being very technical and science-y?

AMY:  I kind of feel that it has to do with the dichotomy that I mentioned before that people are pushed to choose, either math and science or art and art is associated with being creative and that dichotomy doesn’t have to exist and the idea of making it exist at the intersection of that.

JESSICA:  Amy, where did you go to college?

AMY:  I went to college at MIT.

JESSICA:  So the technical bent went out of that?

AMY:  Yeah, a bunch of the art schools I was looking into, I would ask them, “Oh, what kind of math and science classes do you offer and I think, the highest level of math at some of them was college algebra and that made me really sad. That also made me really sad to feel like I might not have as much opportunities to pursue are on aside by going to engineering-focused school. I kind of thought like that I would lose either way but I made up for it by drawing a lot of my classmates.

JESSICA:  [Laughs] Oh, so that’s where these zines come from.

AMY:  Yeah, exactly.

CORALINE:  Speaking of zines, Amy, I think you’re probably best-known, at least, in the [inaudible] for your work on the BubbleSort Zines.

AMY:  Thanks. I left my full time job a year ago in order to focus on computer science education full time via zine.

JESSICA:  What’s a zine?

AMY:  A zine is a self-published magazine. They became popular in the 90s. It was a thing that was part of DIY culture and ‘riot grrrl’ culture because you don’t need a publisher, you could make them and print them yourself so it reduced the barrier to entry to getting your work out there.

CORALINE:  Why did you choose that format for your goal of computer science education?

AMY:  I chose a zine for a couple of different reasons. One was that my target audience were high school students and they thought that that medium might speak to them. Another was that I wanted full control of what kind of content would go into it and that being by self-published, it wouldn’t have to be restricted to what a publisher wanted. Because I was very scared of this project, zines are often things that are handwritten with marker, reproduced with a photocopier, it helps make this project feel less intimidating because no one expected perfection from a zine.

ASTRID:  What kind of response did you get?

AMY:  First of all, I was surprised that even though my target audience or the audience that I wrote this for was myself as a teenager, a lot of adults were interested in reading it too, a lot of men, even though men were not my target audience per se and this goes to, I guess, validate research that if you try to make computer science materials that are more inclusive of marginalized people, it turns out that it helps make it more inclusive to everyone in general.

There have been studies that show that when teachers have tried to make their science classes more inclusive to the girls in the class, more boys also participate it so it’s just a win for everyone.

SAM:  Well, I can’t speak for all men, obviously but I have several of your zines here that I picked up recently and as I mentioned in the intro, they’re adorable. I have enjoyed reading about caches I learned a few things about that from Cache Cats. I’ve got a book here on crypto that I would never ever read anything on crypto but this is kind of cool. It’s also nice to have them around to leave in prominent view of my daughter so that she will eventually pick them up and learn at least something about what it is that I do.

AMY:  Well, thank you.

JESSICA:  That’s a good idea.

AMY:  You picked them up at the Books With Pictures store, right?

SAM:  Yeah, it’s such a great little store.

AMY:  I love that store.

CORALINE:  See, they serve them both in print and electronically.

AMY:  Right.

JESSICA:  That’s really beautiful, the part about trying to be inclusive to anyone. It makes things more inclusive. It’s like if you just think about appealing to people — any people — then you’re thinking of new ways to present information and that’s stimulating to all of us than just falling back to the same old, “Oh, here’s a blog post.”

AMY:  Exactly. I remember having a similar conversation when I was working at a startup with trying to make the job description is more inclusive. The job description at the time was like we’re [inaudible] cutting-edge technology and new state of the art algorithms and I was like, “Can we change this to who I work will affect the impact that we’ll make on people’s lives,” and rewrote it.

The engineers that I was working with said, “Actually, this just sounds like a better job description overall,” so try to make it more inclusive to marginalized people by talking about the benefits it would have on people’s lives, which studies show that marginalized people do care more about their job description than working on state of the art algorithms. Made it just a better job description in general.

JESSICA:  Yeah, sweet. Julia Evans wrote a job description for our team that was just published this week and it’s super awesome. It’s like you might work on this project or something like this and it’s like drastically more compelling than any other job description I’ve read.

AMY:  That’s amazing. I know how enthusiastic she can be so I feel like if she wrote about a job description, that would have sound super exciting, no matter how that was.

JESSICA:  She worked super hard on it. She spent days and days and days on this job description.

CORALINE:  I remember reading somewhere too that if you have a job description that provides like a laundry list that will require or even desire technical skills, that marginalized people are less likely to have a competence to say, “I don’t have all those skills but I have this group of them so I’m going to [inaudible],” whereas, men in particular are more confident and will apply even if they don’t have all the skills listed.

AMY:  Yeah, I heard that too.

CORALINE:  It’s more interesting, I think, in general just to make your job description about what you’re going to do and not how are you going to do it because in the end, that’s totally what matters, right?

AMY:  That’s right.

JESSICA:  Julia also makes zines. I was wondering, Amy, when you distribute your zines electronically, is it like for reading on the iPad or is it for printing on a printer?

AMY:  It’s primarily for reading on a tablet but it’s definitely possible to print. Let say, on the license, like just print for personal use if it’s a digital copy. But yeah, it can be either way.

CORALINE:  How can people subscribe to this, Amy?

AMY:  I had them available at BubbleSort.io and I’m also currently working on six new issues and there is a Kickstarter running for that and that will wrap up in a few days.

CORALINE:  Awesome. Is Kickstarter how you generally fund your project or do you also have a Patreon?

AMY:  Kickstarter is my main way. I used a Kickstarter last year because having the money upfront really helped with the printing costs, paying the editors and stuff like that. It worked out well enough that I decided to do the same thing for the second magazines.

CORALINE:  What do you have planned for the next six issues?

AMY:  I’m really excited about these issues. There are going to be issues about compilers, upgrading systems, image processing, data structures, interesting applications of computer science where I interviewed artists and crafters who incorporate technology into their practice.

ASTRID:  How do you pick what you’re going to have in each issue?

AMY:  A couple of things that led into my decision of what to put in. For these six issues, a lot of them were things that I was scared of when I was in college. I was a good student. I made a good grades but still when I saw a class that said, “Introduction to Compilers.” I was like, “Oh, I’m not smart enough for that.” Now, I’m part of a huge reason of why I want to cover those topics specifically for anyone who might also feel the same as I did.

The previous set of topics was things that were kind of like ‘aha!’ moments for me, when I was studying computers. For example, there’s one called ‘How Do Calculators Even’ and it goes all the way from the history of numbers to binary numbers to electricity and how it works to using electricity to make computations to making your own adder circuit.

I remember when learning about all of that being mind blown that we can get electricity to make computations for us. That even if you didn’t end up studying computer science long term, it’s just a useful thing to understand how that works when we use computers everyday.

SAM:  That is so great. I have a computer science degree and some of those topics are still intimidating to me. I’m really looking forward to reading every single one of those.

AMY:  Thank you.

ASTRID:  We’re going to take some time to thank another one of our $10-level Patreons, Thomas Schaefer. Thank you, Thomas and thank you to all of our awesome contributors. If you like to support us, please visit Patreon.com/GreaterThanCode and that link will be in the show notes.

CORALINE:  Amy, in addition to BubbleSort, you have a lot going on in 2016. What else you’ve been up to?

ASTRID:  One thing that I’ve been working on for the past six months is organizing a Sailor Moon art show in a gallery in San Francisco.

CORALINE:  Your Twitter handle is SailorHg. We actually have a guest question, which is, “Why is Sailor Mercury the best of the Sailor Scout?” Can you explain your fascination?

AMY:  I guess, first of all, I don’t so much feel like Sailor Mercury is the best Sailor Scout or even my favorite Sailor Scout. But she’s the Sailor Scout that happens to be me.

CORALINE:  That’s convenient.

AMY:  My fascination with Sailor Moon started when I was in junior high. I discovered Sailor Moon via the internet and made —

JESSICA:  Sailor Moon is an anime, right?

AMY:  That’s right. It’s an anime about teenage girls that are regular students during the day and then battle evil monsters at night. I discovered it via the internet and I would make lots of fan sites about Sailor Moon so I associate it with learning HTML and learning to code.

There was one of the characters who had my same haircut, who had my same name, who had my same height, who had my same favorite color. I guess, most importantly, she really like computers and science and was going through a lot of the same problems that I was at that time where I thought like no one’s in school will talk to me. I usually sat alone or like skips lunch and was in the library at the computer and they show Sailor Mercury being somebody who is socially ostracized at school until she meets Sailor Moon.

I really am identified with the character and I also love how all of the Sailor Scouts, once they met, were really different. Some were athletics, some loves to cook, some were really academics, some weren’t but they were all good friends. Despite of or maybe because of their differences, that gave me hope for eventually finding a group that would accept me for how I was and that we could battle evil monsters together.

JESSICA:  Maybe that’s what we need in the world — more evil monsters so we could stop fighting each other.

ASTRID:  More battle with evil monsters.

CORALINE:  If we have friends, we have evil monsters.

ASTRID:  Yeah.

SAM:  Personally, I think we need more Sailor Scouts.

JESSICA:  You said something interesting. You said that Sailor Mercury isn’t necessarily your favorite Sailor Scout. She just happens to be you and that ties into what you just said also about wanting a group of people who are different so… I don’t know, maybe, who is your favorite Sailor Scout? Why do you really enjoy people who are different than you?

AMY:  I don’t feel like I have a favorite Sailor Scout. They are really great in their own way and I love the variety. They’re nine of them total and I feel like part of the popularity of Sailor Moon is when that many characters, that are really distinct and different, that it’s easy to find one that you relate to.

CORALINE:  I think that awesome teams are built in the same way where you have people with different characteristics, different experiences, and different talents who come together to solve a common problem.

AMY:  Exactly.

JESSICA:  And there’s always someone that you can relate to, even when you’re expressing different parts of yourself. I feel like when I’m in a group of people that we have certain things in common, then that’s the only part of myself that I get to express. But when I’m around people who aren’t like me in some designated way, then I find new parts of myself that I hadn’t expressed before.

I want that with this podcast. I want to have panelists and guests that everybody can relate to and ideally, like relate to in ways that they never going to relate to themselves before. Does that make sense?

AMY:  Uhm-mm.

CORALINE:  I think that’s part of our overall philosophy, Jessica.

JESSICA:  But I’m glad we’re like in that way, Coraline.

CORALINE:  Yes. Amy, I think I first met you when you gave a conference talk. I want to say maybe Madison Ruby.

AMY:  Oh, right. That was a really great conference and your talk there about computer sciences. Alchemy was amazing.

CORALINE:  Oh, thank you. I think that’s [inaudible] you gave there involves sweater. Am I remembering correctly?

AMY:  Yeah, that’s correct.

CORALINE:  Do you want to talk about that?

AMY:  Sure —

CORALINE:  I think it’s a great example of combining your art with technology so I think that’s really a fascinating topic.

AMY:  Thank you. The talk that I gave at Madison Ruby was called ‘Sweaters as a Service’ and it stemmed from seeing an old ad for a Nintendo add-on that never made the cut, that it was supposed to be add-on to the Super Nintendo that would use a program that’s more to Mariopaint where you could design knitted objects and then this add-on would just knit them for you. The article was like, “This is really weird. We see why it’s never made it.”

But I was like, “This is the best thing I’ve ever heard of and I can’t understand why they didn’t make these,” so I try to do some research, I try to find out if there are any prototypes that I could get my hands on and there weren’t. But it turns out that there was a period of time where home knitting machines were really popular and I managed to find one on Craigslist. I knew that I had to turn it to something similar to the Nintendo add-on that never happened.

I ended up bringing it to an Airbnb Hackathon and found seven other people that liked the idea of hacking it. We’ve learned how to use it. We learned how to hack it to knit our own patterns. The trick is using a floppy drive emulator that can use to be able to upload additional patterns to this knitting machine via floppy drives so if you can just emulate a floppy drive on your laptop and use that. Especially, we had to make our own USB cable that went from a laptop USB to the slightly unusual serial port that went into the knitting machine. We transferred additional patterns to the machine that way and then eventually, made a server where you could upload photos and then send it to a knitting machine.

CORALINE:  It’s pretty amazing because that involves both hardware hacking and software hacking, right?

AMY:  Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was yet another example of being on a team of people who all work on different parts of the Airbnb products and none of us really knew about knitting but having no ego attached to it, none of us thought that we understood the knitting machine better than anyone else because we all are equally clueless about the knitting machine. It made itself to having really good team dynamics.

JESSICA:  I love that so being equally clueless helped you learn together as a team?

AMY:  Exactly.

JESSICA:  That’s totally a thing. It helps to learn with people who are at your level. It also ties back to something you said earlier that I thought was important. You said that the genre of zines felt less intimidating because no one expected perfection and here it is again, that we can do more, we can create more when we don’t have that pressure of perfection.

AMY:  Right.

CORALINE:  I think it’s very interesting too that the first sort of programming that was done just before Ada Lovelace see them was programming for looms — the automatic weaving machines, used punch cards to actually like create patterns and so on and that was like a great inspiration for Babbage and Lovelace. It feels like in a way, the Sweater as a Service is a return to the roots of programming.

AMY:  Exactly. Historically, looking at all the examples of how technology and crafts have been intertwined, makes it even more confusing to me that we keep trying to make the dichotomy between art and science.

SAM:  Here, it really reminded of the thing that you said at the top of the show about introducing art into STEM. It’s really reintroducing art to STEM and vice versa because these things have been feeding back and forth throughout most of their histories. It’s nice to see that it caught out a little bit more.

AMY:  Yeah, you’re totally right. There should be a re-introduction.

SAM:  So what can I, as a software developer, learn from the world of art?

AMY:  Art can help give us empathy for other people’s experiences. A lot of times, when you’re reading a book, it’s really immersive and it can put you in a person’s experience that you might not experience otherwise and that having more empathy makes you a better technologist because technology should be people-focused.

JESSICA:  Yeah, we want the computer to serve the people and not the other way around. I always feel sorry for the people at the hotel desk and I don’t understand why it takes 10 minutes to check someone in at the hotel. But I know it’s not the person’s fault. It’s totally the software.

Sam, I have a comment on that too. Alan Kay the other day at CodeMash said that, “Artists understand that the present is a construction. There’s something about art that expresses the limitation our current context and our choice of context and just the idea that there is a world that we’re choosing to ignore because there always is.”

SAM:  Or the thing that we think of as objective reality is also entirely subjective.

JESSICA:  There is a reality but we can’t know it so we make up our own and the artist is like intentionally making up their own.

ASTRID:  It sounds like you’re saying that this way of thinking about yourself and thinking about how you fit in the world is kind of flipped when you’re looking at it from the perspective of an artist because as an artist, you can’t be everything you know everything. But you can try your best to know something and then expresses it so other people can know that the same thing the way that you did. Is that right?

JESSICA:  That’s beautiful.

AMY:  Yeah, I really like that.

SAM:  Now, I’m thinking about one of the things that I’ve always loved about science fiction or speculative fiction, if you prefer, is that some of the best work comes from taking what’s basically our current culture and then say, “Well, what would happen if this one thing were flipped around from a different perspective? What would follow from that?”

Just that trick of being able to say, “Well, what if that thing wasn’t true,” has been so useful in getting unstuck from coding problems that I can’t imagine doing my job without it.

JESSICA:  Oh, yes. Especially, if you’re building a distributed system and you need to constantly think about, “What if this fails?”

“Oh, no. that’s perfectly reliable component.” Yes and when it fails, then what?


SAM:  All hail the chaos monkey.

JESSICA:  I did want to ask when you learned that making websites is a full time career. I’m also wondering what it felt like to quit your job to make zines full time.

AMY:  It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea of making websites as a career because it had been a hobby for so long and because at the time I started making websites, full time web development wasn’t a thing. When I applied for my first web development job, I just felt like, “Wow. Who knew that I could take my hobby and have it become a career,” and my parents’ reaction to it was, “So you’re saying that you’re going to the webmaster as your profession?”

Just the title ‘webmaster’ like which was reminiscent of the 90s —

JESSICA:  Yeah, what year was this?

AMY:  What year was it that I became a webmaster professionally? It was 2008, maybe.

CORALINE:  Wow, what a throwback.

AMY:  Yeah.

CORALINE:  I did a similar experience, Amy. I was a CS dropout but I have always been fascinated about technology and I was on the internet in ’93. That’s when I first got on. I actually built my first website for [inaudible] web browsers as opposing for Lynx. I was working in an engineering company but I was working in marketing and building databases and they started their first web team and they were like, “We’re starting a web team.”

And I was like, “Oh, that’s really cool. Get the company on the internet. That’s really nice.”

And they’re like, “What do you think that’s going to do for your career?”


SAM:  “Yeah, but how are you going to use this?”

JESSICA:  Amy, you suggested that you apply for a job making websites.

AMY:  I just saw a listing and I was like, “Hey, this is the stuff I’ve always done personally,” like I’ve always had my own website, started a blog when that became popular. I guess it feels really similar to making zines as a career to be honest because the drawing in the margins of my notebooks was what I always done as a hobby and would never have thought as a career.

JESSICA:  So that transitioning from web development to making zines wasn’t as weird as it might be were some of us who like grown up with computers are job.

AMY:  Yeah, I guess on one hand not but on the other hand, I’m like don’t need as many professional zine makers, like who do that as a full time career as I did web developers —


AMY:  — Even though the idea was new to me —


AMY:  — I like that [inaudible].

SAM:  I had a question based on something that I read out from the intro. You mentioned that you did HCI Research at the University of Tokyo. What sort of thing did you worked on and second follow up question, what is something really cool in that field that more of us in sort of day to day web dev should know about?

JESSICA:  Critical question, what’s HCI?


AMY:  HCI is human-computer interaction that basically meant that it was the University of Tokyo has media lab. I worked on a project that I designed with the lead of an interface to design clothes by drawing on and around a mannequin and having a 3D motion-tracker, extrapolate those points into a 3D model of a piece of clothing and then flattening algorithm would change that into a flat pattern that you could cut out so to gather the actual garment.

ASTRID:  That is awesome.

AMY:  Thank you. I was really inspired by all of the other people that were working in the lab and going back to the art and technology being intertwined, most of my lab mates told me that their inspiration for their projects were either Doraemon, a Japanese kids cartoon about a robotic cat or Astroboy, a Japanese cartoon about a robotic little boy. But like a sci-fi worlds either the robot cat or the robot boy were what inspired them to make, were the unusual things in the lab.

Sorry, there was a second half to your question?

SAM:  There was. I was just wondering if there was something really cool and interesting from the field of HCI that those of us who are not in that field should know about, would benefit from knowing about or much as think is really cool.

AMY:  A lot of it isn’t directly useful per se, but the difference that I find between working in an HCI lab and working in the industry is a lot of the things in an HCI lab won’t ever see the light of day or it’s kind of maybe only like 5% of those things will ever be incorporate into actual product. But the things that you might work on day to day at a tech company might not be as exciting or interesting but people are going to use the product, which is exciting.

CORALINE:  I’m curious if that makes the work more fulfilling or less fulfilling knowing that what you’re doing was R&D. I mean, did you strive to make something that was that 5% that has seen the light of day or did you just feel like you had a lot of creative freedom to pursue whatever you’re interested in?

AMY:  It definitely made me feel like I had more creative freedom because I didn’t have to feel constrained about is this, something that people would want right now or is this going to be popular enough that it will make money so it’s very freeing in that way. But there’s also something really satisfying about knowing that people are using your product every day.

I feel like I tend to have to do the two and weighs like if I work in computer science research for a while, I’ll get sad that no one’s using my stuff and move back to working on industry stuff and when I do that for a while, then I start to feel creatively constrained. A lot of my career is oscillating between the two.

CORALINE:  Do you see yourself getting back into full time development work?

AMY:  I don’t think that I see myself getting back into full time development work for the company. I’m trying to figure out how I could possibly do it, kind of more in my terms. I have a lot of ideas for games and that might be my next venture after BubbleSort but that would just be me and possibly a few other people making a game together. I’m still trying to find my own balance of being able to work creatively on something that I feel like a lot of people would use.

JESSICA:  I love that point about you may not think what you’re working on is cool. But if people use it, that’s cool.

AMY:  Yeah, I’ve talked to people who are focused on research and have done nothing but research on some of the things that I’ve been working on in industry and a lot of times their reaction will be, “But that problem has already been solved,” like there’s already a paper about it.


AMY:  But it doesn’t mean that it’s been solved for a particular specific. Used case doesn’t mean that the paper that described that it was possible like [inaudible] people. A really different mindset. I think that working so removed from people all of the time tends to what you think of as important.

JESSICA:  Yeah, there’s such a big difference between creating something possible and making it useful to people. Making it possible for everyone to do it and not just you on your own laptop.

AMY:  Yeah.

CORALINE:  At the end of every show, we like to take a moment to reflect on the conversation we’ve had and sort of highlight the things that we thought were really interesting or really pointed or really touched us in some way. Astrid do you have any thoughts on our conversation today?

ASTRID:  Yes. I love so much of what we talked about art and science and how they work together. But I think the thing that I got the most out of which was surprising is to pay more attention to the hobbies that you have or the things that you don’t really noticed that you do all the time because since things change so fast, even though right now may not be something that you could actually do for a living, in a few years, you could probably build a whole career on it. It was just something I’m going to start doing — paying a little more attention to the stuff I just absentmindedly do.

SAM:  Now, I have to figure out a way to incorporate juggling into my programming career.


ASTRID:  You could totally do that.

CORALINE:  [inaudible]


SAM:  I think you have to put a dollar into the swear jar for bringing up that word.


JESSICA:  That’s a four-letter word, yeah.

SAM:  I really liked what we touched on earlier about making things accessible to marginalized people so that everybody benefits. Somehow in my head this fits. It goes along with this idea that I can bring more art into my work, I mean, I focus a lot on my craft and figuring out how to communicate through words in code. But I don’t take that extra step of actually going out and explicitly seeking inspiration in other forms of art. That’s something that I could do more of.

CORALINE:  I was really struck by something you said and I plan on tweeting this any art [inaudible] empathy for other people’s experiences. I think that empathy is so critical and so overlooked in our profession. We don’t have empathy for any users. As my girlfriend has been talking about lately, we don’t even have empathy for the computers that we use every day. We write code that abuses our computers.

I think it’s really interesting and I want to think about more on how to integrate some concepts, maybe world building, maybe exploring, as Sam said, alternate realities where what if this thing was not true and how I can use that to influence the work that I do professionally into my side projects. I found it really fascinating and thank you for sharing that.

JESSICA:  I feel like I interjected all the things that I thought were important like during the show. I am really happy with the art as empathy as inclusiveness as welcoming as helpful to all of us, that the zines for instance, just make it easier for any person to think about things like BubbleSort or cryptography to go deep into how calculators work and like it.

It is art. We get so light deep into the details of the code. It really helps to setback and for me, I’ll go and draw some slides instead of writing some code for presentation or just something with my hands and paper and scissors and markers. Yet, tie it for break sometimes, instead of making a [inaudible] ticket, go make post it notes with drawings on them and then stick them.

I have a giant post it sheet on my wall that I stick my little post it notes on, in various configurations and since I brought it home, it’s just mine and there’s no one that I have to explain it to, I don’t have to make columns because I put it there so I just know where it is. This a strangely satisfying. So thanks, Amy for the reminder that art is not an alternative to technology. It is an integral part to doing technology well.

CORALINE:  Amy, do you have any thoughts?

AMY:  Yeah, I really enjoyed talking to all of you. I was really struck by Astrid’s insight into art as admitting that you don’t know everything and wanting to create a little bit of alternate reality that other people can look into an understand. That was a really beautiful insight.

CORALINE:  Wonderful.

JESSICA:  Thank you to all of our listeners and especially our supporters. If you would like access to secret content like what we’d talked about during the break, go to Patreon.com/GreaterThanCode and sign up continue this great podcast.

SAM:  Give me the cash!

CORALINE:  We are listener supported which is very important for us and we are thankful for every one of our Patreons. I should also mention that if you do sign up to support us at any dollar level, you get access to a Slack community of other listeners, panelists, and guests to post guest’s questions. You can continue the discussion that you heard on the podcast. It’s really a great, very welcoming, very inclusive community and we love you to be a part of it so consider supporting us.

I think that’s going to wrap us up for the week. Amy, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s really great to have you on.

AMY:  Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed talking to all of you.

CORALINE:  We will talk to you all next week.

This episode was brought to you by the panelists and Patrons of >Code. To pledge your support and to join our awesome Slack community, visit patreon.com/greaterthancode. Managed and produced by @therubyrep of DevReps, LLC.

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