Coding that Brings Interactive Experiences to Reality

Course Teaches Fundamentals of Programming Through Creativity, Self-Expression

A new course at Kent State University is exploring the expressive side of coding — coding that entertains, advocates and informs, and also fosters personal and artistic expression.

Offered in the School of Emerging Media and Technology (EMAT), Creative Coding is a hands-on course in which students learn the fundamentals of computer programming through play, self-expression and creativity — ways of learning that are accessible to multiple majors across the university. No prior coding experience is needed.

“Creative Coding is EMAT’s introduction to the fundamentals of programming using Javascript,” said EMAT Director Michael Beam. “In the class, students learn to use code to bring creative designs and interactive experiences into reality. This approach offers an accessible introduction to the fundamentals of development and creative design for students who are new to programming or using code for design. Creative Coding reflects the core values of our program, which explores the interdisciplinary spaces between technology, design, and media.”

Students in the Spring 2021 course have been developing technical skills using JavaScript and the open-source platform p5.js while creating interactive art, animations and simple games. They’ve also been exploring the way technology intersects with society through the lens of how artists and designers use computation to explore urgent social, political and environmental issues.

“Traditionally conceived, computer programming is functional: that is, it seeks to provide solutions to real-world problems,” said Assistant Professor Abraham Avnisan, who teaches the course. “Creative Coding, on the other hand, is expressive. It reimagines computation as a playful, creative medium that can be used in almost limitless ways for artistic and personal expression.”

The class can prepare students for career paths as a software developer, interaction designer and web developer.

View some of the students' recent work

Sophomore Visual Communication Design major Katie Carpenter is enrolled in Creative Coding, with the hope that tech-oriented classes will help her pursue her dream of becoming a visual information specialist for the FBI after graduation. She is also pursuing web development and user experience design minors. She says Creative Coding has helped her to see technology in new ways.

“My entire life I have seen technology as a way of communicating things through texts, posts, movies, etc. However, after taking the Creative Coding course, I have begun to see technology in a deeper sense,” she said. “(Now) I see it as communication through algorithms. Everything ... is defined by a set of rules, followed by a series of calculations, carried throughout the programs. Everything is intentional and very well thought out; if it wasn't, it simply wouldn't work.”

Communication Studies senior Britney Hargis wanted to develop more technical skills before graduating and looking for a job in media.

“A communication studies degree teaches a lot of soft skills like teamwork, conflict management and organization,” Hargis said. “By taking classes like Creative Coding, it lets COMM students develop and improve their ‘hard skills.’ It is important not only to understand how digital messages affect consumers but to understand how to actually create and design these messages myself.”

She added: “I think the idea of taking a coding course can sound intimidating. Coding is sometimes seen as something that only computer science students would take. However, I think this is a perfect medium for someone that has an interest in learning more computer skills or that wants a more artistic class in their schedule.”

And for computer science students like senior Joshua Behler, studying code in a creative way has, “helped me figure out problems I have had in my normal coding through more creative, outside of the box ways.”

“The biggest takeaway I have had is that coding has an effect on people greater than just being a utility or entertainment,” Behler said. “It can also represent life and really anything else that humans interact with, and that makes it a universal communication tool.”

Creative Coding is offered through the School of Emerging Media and Technology, within the College of Communication and Information (CCI) at Kent State. It is open to students of all majors; there is no prerequisite. Honors sections are available, and CCI students are encouraged to consider the course as part of their CCI Core.

POSTED: Thursday, March 25, 2021 - 12:29pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, May 12, 2021 - 9:49am