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Theory of Technology #1 – Mindstorms, LOGO, Math and Verbal

This is the first in a series of blog posts for the class Critical Theory of Technology at the School for Poetic Computation.

I remember trying real hard to make a koosh ball. You could see them on the other screens around the lab, these pretty little koosh balls in different colors, but I kept making some crazy infinite dodecagons or whatever. But then there was that first programmer moment where it clicked REPEAT [ FORWARD 50 BACK 50 RIGHT 10], then boom koosh’s everywhere. Blue kooshes in the sky, green kooshes on the ground, a whole world of kooshes.

I hadn’t thought much about LOGO, the turtle-based graphics programming language for kids, in a long time, but while reading the book Mindstorms by Seymour Papert, one of its creators, it has all come back pretty vividly. This was my first experience with programming, though I didn’t think about it at all when I started coding later in life.

I remember having all those programming moments, taking on a difficult task and breaking it down, long periods of frustration, eventual success all of that. But I also remember a strong feeling of dissociation from the rest of my life and what I was learning. What does this turtle have to do with anything?

I assume this is the reason that my 14 year-old little brother is not being taught LOGO in school. It never got escape velocity to connect with everything else, or to dislodge the more traditional modes of math which received many more hours. It makes me wish it had been a significant enough part of my life that I could’ve gone up thinking about how to break problems down into instructions for a machine, which is so much of how modern problems are solved