I think there’s some interesting correlations between the thoughts and arguments stemming from the two articles “Needles in the Haystack” and “The Role of Computational Literacy in Computers and Writing”. “Needles in the Haystack” is all about search engines and their algorithms and how they work and even interact with us. The results we see from a search engine aren’t random, and although the results are technically decided by an algorithm, that algorithm was created by a human.
Well who is making these algorithms? Coders. Computer coders are the ones designing the software for these algorithms. “The Role of Computational Literacy in Computers and Writing” suggests that everyone learn to code, but maybe we can view this not as saying that everyone needs to learn to code to become computer programmers, but everyone learns to code (to some extent) so that everyone will have an understanding of how things like algorithms work. (And of course algorithms for search engines aren’t the only thing about computer science that would be useful for people to know. We all use computers on a daily basis for almost everything we do, and all those things involve some sort of coding.)
For example, here at UNC we have to earn certain gen eds—math, science, history etc.—and we have to learn these regardless of what our major is or what we want to do for a career postgrad. If I’m an English major, I still have to take a science course. If I’m a math major, I still need a language credit. Some might argue that science is useless for an English major, or that a second language is irrelevant for a math major, but I believe it’s important to get a wide range of knowledge while in school, not because you’re going to necessarily directly use it in your future career, but because it opens up your mind and broadens your understanding of a wide range of things that you come in contact with on a daily basis, things that affect our lives great and small every single day.
Computers and computer coding is no exception. In our day and age, it would truly behoove us to all have a better understanding of how coding worked. I’m not saying that we all have to be trained from K-12 in coding and each and every one of us become an expert, but we should all have some sort of grasp on how our computers, our phones, our search engines, and out internet works. With a better understanding of coding, perhaps we’d be able to avoid a lot of the confusion and conflict that arises when people become frustrated when search engines are designed biasedly.