matrix time

From a recent e-mail exchange between Praxis team members.

Praxer 1: I’m befuddled.

Praxer 2: Blah blah blah line 173 blah blah comment out the blah blah reroute the encryptions blah blah facet table blah ruby this ruby that blah rake db:somethingorother blah blah…

Praxer 1: Wow…you’re totally living in The Matrix. You must be, like, seeing code everywhere.

Praxer 2: Yes, and Praxer 3 is my Mr. Smith.

I feel like what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks with regard to Prism is too embarrassing to blog about. Who really wants to hear about me staring at fifteen lines of JavaScript for several hours before I realize that it doesn’t just look weird because I don’t know JavaScript very well, or because it’s actually not JavaScript but CoffeeScript, but because the code is using d3, even though there’s nothing that looks d3-ish on the page (I suspect because d3 would be the perfect thing to realize some of last year’s proposed visualizations: bar graphs and such from the word highlight frequencies)? All this so I can eventually get a JavaScript pop-up when I click on a word that displays the percentage of users who have highlighted that word for a particular facet.

My life in Praxis this week has also been about context switching. Going back and forth between squinting at the JavaScript console and feeling incompetent, and writing essays for my qualifying exams where I’m mustering my best performance of mastery over specific subfields of contemporary music. I’ve noticed that programming requires a very different kind of time—or seems to anyway—than other sorts of work: reading, writing, or even composing. I can sit down to write or compose for twenty minutes and accomplish meaningful work. But with code it seems like several hours of uninterrupted time are often necessary. Even one hour is barely enough to get the development environment up and running and realize it’s broken. This morning it took two hours—and help from two of the slab’s excellent staff developers—just to get it up and running and realize that it was broken.

I’m not trying to be a downer here, and I should be clear that I love programming and could do it all day if I didn’t have other things to do (like these scary exams). But time management for DH projects might be a particular challenge because of the different kinds of time required for the D and the H.

Chris Peck is a composer/performer whose work has been presented extensively around the US and internationally. His works involving collaboration with contemporary dance, audience participation, various mixtures of trained and “untrained” performers, and site specificity have been performed at the Venice Biennale, Performa, ImPulsTanz, Improvised and Otherwise, The Whitney Museum, and The Kitchen, and reviewed…

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