Abstract

Computer programming literacy is increasingly understood as vital for participation in today’s global economy, but faces significant issues of access, representation, and equity. A 2018 report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that women comprise only twenty six percent of the computing workforce, and this statistic drops even more precipitously for women of color. In response to information technologies that exacerbate existing disparities of gender, race, and class, the industry of coding education designed for marginalized and minoritized communities is growing rapidly. Within writing studies, scholars have examined the rhetoricity of code, considered the intersections of identity and technology, and theorized literacy practices in technical and educational contexts. However, to date, writing studies researchers have just begun to consider how literacy, technology, and identity interact within the varied landscape of coding education. My book manuscript, Programming Women: Rhetoric, Literacy, and Coding, extends this scholarship through its analysis of sites of contemporary programming literacy education for marginalized communities in technology. Through a rhetorical study deploying a mixed-methods approach, I consider how literacy is taught, understood, and practiced in a range of sites of coding education, from online educational modules to meet ups, bootcamps, and formal courses. In doing so, my research has the potential to contribute to ongoing conversations on literacy practices and technology in writing studies, as well as to public discourses of equity in computer programming.

 

The disciplines of rhetoric and composition and technical communication have a long history of research on the relationship between writing, technology, and education. Computer code and software algorithms are rhetorical texts, imbued with persuasive force and shaped by the implicit assumptions of their creators. Not only does code function rhetorically, it also offers new ways for understanding rhetoric and writing. Put simply, as Annette Vee claims, programming re-codes writing. As the field of writing studies becomes increasingly concerned with the invisible infrastructure of programming and its role in rhetorical interactions, there is a need to consider further the relationship between programming literacy and rhetorical education. Analyzing sites of programming education through the lens of multiliteracy highlights the interplay between the functional literacies often touted as avenues to economic mobility, the critical literacies that reveal the racialized, gendered, and ableist logics embedded within code, and the rhetorical literacies involved with creating and challenging existing coding logics.