How to turn Cyborg: Week 2

My adventures through Dev Academy’s web development programme

Dev Academy’s Marketing Manager Maddy King has taken it upon herself to brave the Dev Academy web development programme, and share her #nofilter thoughts on the journey. Check out Week 1 here.

Week 2 was a lot more of a stretch. We used Udacity to learn a lot about layouts using boxes and grids. The Udacity videos didn’t go very in-depth so I didn’t gain a crystal clear understanding of the concepts, but it gave enough overview for us to be able to dive in deeper later on.

This was also the first time I made a branch from the master branch in Github. This means that all my original code still existed in the master (original) area of Github, but I could duplicate it entirely and work on the duplicate without fear of destroying the original — by making a branch. If Github is a tree where you store all your code online, the master is the trunk and all the branches are copies which you can then experiment on. Once you’re sure that the thing you’re trying to do is perfect on your branch, you can merge it with the master, replacing the master with the new version. This is useful for when teams are working on the same project, because during the merge process, Github checks to make sure the new changes you’ve made don’t conflict with the new changes someone else has made. The final master version should be smooth, functional and have all the updated changes in a working order.

We also passed briefly over some concepts like media queries and responsive design, which we will look at more next week.

cyborg theory and AI new zealand
Me causing trouble since way back

I was very rushed for time this week so I was glad to have the ability to watch the Udacity videos in double time. They taught me some good tools for doing some things I wanted to do in my website. There was emphasis on validating my code using online validators which tell you if you have any errors — I guess that’s according to best practice rules of how to write HTML and CSS.

And we were introduced to Flexbox, a toolkit for designing layouts where everything is put into boxes that follow certain rules. Using Flexbox means that things like wanting two elements to be next to each other on a big screen, but under each other on a little screen, are already taken care of using this ‘out-of-the-box’ (pun) tool.

The exciting thing for me was 12 x 12 grid design, so you divide your layout into 12 boxes and you design according to that grid. This means you can made a layout that’s ⅓ menu and ⅔ text, for example. It’s very organised but allows you a huge amount of creativity.

I really liked that about this week. We’re figuring out how to talk to a very logical machine in a way that allows for the whole length and breadth of our imaginations to be realised. It reminds me of how the brain works — in the immediacy it’s all dreams and wonderings and limitless questions and incredible impossible ideas. But underneath that, there’s a system of hyper regulated neurons and electrons and chemicals working to a pretty strict schema to make all this possible. If one of our chemicals is slightly out of balance the whole brain is affected, right?

It feels similar. For the user, we can see wondrous things on a webpage, cartwheeling robots and moving designs and flying text and live updated content — anything we can imagine should be possible within the confines of the screen. But to get there, to build it, we have to figure out the easiest, most efficient way of telling the computer how to do it. A grid seems really boring, but with it you can then put elements anywhere on the screen, they don’t have to come one after another. But if you screw one thing up, the whole thing breaks. And as it gets more complicated, like the brain, a small mishap can create a big problem.

I did a paper once on cyborg theory- how, the more we spend time with computers, the more we become them. When you have an artificial limb it takes a matter of weeks for your brain to expand its boundaries of consciousness to start to think of that limb as part of your body. So when we’re always, literally always touching our phones, our brains must have expanded to think of that device as part of our bodies, which is why we feel so strange when we leave our phones at home — like we’re missing a limb. I suspect that the iPhone was even designed with this in mind — it’s so slippery and big that you basically always have to be holding it, touching it, integrating it into your body.

Similarly, since the 1800s we’ve started talking about our brains like machines, and therefore started to think about our brains like machines. Phrases like ‘having a meltdown’ ‘having a breakdown’ ‘blew a fuse’ ‘we’re not programmed like that’ ‘she’s just wired differently’ ‘we got our wires crossed’ — when I was concussed I’d say ‘I need 20 minutes to defrag’ a lot — these weren’t in our vocabulary two hundred years ago. So arguably the more we try to make machines more human with AI, etc., the more we are actually spending time with them and coming to think of ourselves and understand ourselves in computational terms, so the more we are actually becoming like them.

But, since my concussion, I really like understanding the brain. It’s mad to think that we’ll never be able to build a computer as complex as the human brain, but we could build a machine that could build a computer as complex as the human brain. We’re already creating machines that can fuel and heal and reproduce themselves like the human body can, which to me are some of the greatest miracles about being a living, organic thing. You do start to marvel at the fact that, if you don’t believe in a creator, our programming has been randomly created through billions of years of probability to be so astonishingly adaptable, survivable and creative. And, could we build a random probability system so advanced that a machine could simulate 4 billion years of evolution in a matter of minutes and conceptualise its own organisms? And if we were to grow these organisms from living tissue, would we conceive of them as organic or robotic?

(This is what happens when you get someone with an arts background into tech!)

So anyway. CSS and grid layouts. A good week haha. The updated design — ‘By Maddy’ at the side stays static when you scroll, yayah:



Phase 0

Week: 2

Sprint: 2

Time logged: 8.5 hours

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