Digital Narratives I

My first computer arrived on Christmas Eve. Dragged along by the reindeer, covered in plastic to ward off rain, snow (from the places where it actually snows), and dust… The ever present dust that hovered around my room all year, the same room where I found the computer on Christmas morning. Already set up on a new desk. Covered in plastic.

To me, “computer” was a small, bulky gray monitor, with matching CPU, keyboard, and mouse. All I had learned to do in it was write on Word, paint on Paint, and play games stored on CDs.

The Internet Era began when my sisters and I discovered that our older cousin played games without CDs. He would go on his computer and access the Cartoon Network website, where there were not one, but multiple games based on TV shows. Magic.

Sometime later, our dad (who worked in Computer Science back then) set up the computer’s internet connection. It took a little while for it to actually work, amidst the dial up symphony that acted as a prelude to our somewhat feeble connection to Cartoon Network… the symphony of code with which our world expanded into the digital realm.

For the youngsters: What’s dial up? 

Before graduating from high school, my digital savviness was confined to the world of Microsoft Office, some video games (shout-out to Zoo Tycoon and The Sims, among others), the art of emailing (specifically Hotmail and Gmail), and the art of professional YouTube-watching. I’ve never been an avid user of social media, nor was I ever too interested in the internal workings of hardware or software.

However, I took a class called “Principios de Informática” (which literally translates to Principles of Computing) during my third semester of university, and learned the basics of coding with Java. I didn’t have any expectations about the course, and was thus surprised to find that I enjoyed it immensely.  Understanding code as the building block of digital environments made me appreciate the potential for creativity and research that characterizes programming.

One year later, at New York University Abu Dhabi, I was presented with the opportunity of combining coding with the study of art and humanities as part of my university career.  The prospect attracted me, given my new-found interest in programming and my ever-present interest in the arts (and humanities).

When I think about the intersection between the two, the first image that comes to mind is a flashback from an international exposition that took place in Costa Rica, in 2011. It was titled “Da Vinci El Genio” (Da Vinci The Genius), and it included 200 replicas of the Renaissance man’s work. Accompanying these  where short films explaining the role of technology in the development of the exhibition. I remember sitting on a bench, stationed in front of a screen, watching the second half of one such film and waiting to see the first half next, once the video looped. I was fascinated by the application of technology and digital instruments to the study of Da Vinci’s artworks, sketchbooks, and notebooks. Magic. Again.

In the past year, I’ve learned some Python, HTML, CSS, and Javascript. As tools, they expand the possibilities of what could be done – of what I could do – in the digital realm.

That, above all, is incredibly exciting.