Major Learning Achievements & New Knowledge
- Basic knowledge of semiotics
- Human symbolic cognition & symbolic representation
- The essence of nature languages and a brief history of symbol evolvement
- Basic history of computer science and how it related to human symbolic cognition
- How computer works and why it works in that way
- Operation principle of “programming”
【How we turn into this?】
Before I learned this course, the development of computer seems like a mystery for me. As someone with a great interest in zoology, I have always been curious about how to define the boundaries between humans and other animals, and how homo sapiens evolved from the poor omnivorous mammals to what we are now. If a person uses a time machine to travel from Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) to Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), he might struck by the splendor of the Ming Dynasty and some of its novel designs and civic activities. But if he travels from late Qing Dynasty (1901 – 1912) to now, that will be MIND-BLOWING! He might be deranged~
How did we come out of our caves to build city-states, and how did we move from the age of monarchs to the age of information and globalization?
The answers of these questions are in the black-box before.
I feel the readings of semiotics and nature language in the course shed a light on these black-boxes. I can’t say they solve all my confusion, but they provide a terrific approach to think about our human development. Our progress towards the information age began when our ancestors began to paint on the rock walls and carve symbols on the stones. We add layer after layer of abstraction from generation to generation, and with the development of engineering, the computer comes out!
【Our ability of learning language is a superpower! 】
It’s hard to realize that language is actually a part of symbolic representation, and also, hard to realize that the complexity of nature languages is a superpower of human beings. That is because we live with language everyday since we born, we just take that for granted. It’s hard for us to see the inherent connection between language (or let’s say, symbolic system) to computer development.
I was shocked when I learn how human babies deal with language information and weave the information in their little brain to create new expressions. I still feel that part is a miracle.
Punch cards and punch tap, the important component of programming in early age. After I learned how programming evolve from physical things to codes, programmers didn’t look like magicians anymore. And thanks for all the efforts our predecessors made, we can just type in symbols belong to human cognition community to communicate with machine is all because of their hard work on UNICODE, complier and high level languages.
So basically: [BEFORE] Everything is cool and mysterious [NOW] Everything is cool but reasonable!
How the methods, key concepts and approaches that we have used will apply to other topics, disciplines, or courses that you want to study in CCT
【Communication and UX Design】
Before came to CCT, I was a graphic designer in a Shanghai company. I really had issues with our web developers since I don’t know what is they can do and what is they can’t, or what is difficult what is easy. Now, with an overview of computer science and understanding of many terminologies, I believe I could communicate with them in better way. One of the CCT learning goal is to help students to be a bridge between technical and non-technical staff, I think that’s exactly what is course is for.
Without any knowledge of art, I have to say most of the time I could not understand what all those art works are for, especially modern arts. I love David Hockney’s swimming pool, love Dali’s dream-like painting, Edward Hopper’s city life, Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower, but I don’t really get the beauty or meaning of Andy Warhol, Mondrian, Henri Matisse and etc.Their works look so simple. Are they just fish for fame? And more importantly, why some people are willing to pay so much money for art? What can art do?
But semiotics really, really change my view of art. Painting on the rock wall is the start of art, the start of symbol using, the start of language and everything related to human symbolic cognition. The letters in English, or the characters in Chinese are fixed form of art work (not that fixed maybe, we still have calligraphy art). Now I feel that art is like an extension of our primitive ability. We use our creativity to create different symbols, express emotions with colors, and express rhythm with lines. I want to quote Mr. Keating from the film Dead Poet Society:
We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
He is talking about the poetry, also a form of art, and I believe his words apply to any kind of art. These are what distinguished us from other animals.
Many art works always look abstract is because symbols are on many layers of abstraction. They look simple might just because audiences usually take everything for granted.
Combined with digital technology, art now has more forms of expression. Among them, I am particularly attracted by Net Art, and I hope to research further in this field.