August 28, 2009 in Data

John Maeda has written an article for the MIT Technology Review about Processing, the open source visualization language. It's a very interesting look into the story behind the code. Maeda is the president of the Rhode Island School of Design and was once the director of MIT's Media Lab, where Processing was born.

Lately, I've noticed a growing number of Processing-based visualizations (often of tweet data), as more and more people discover the easy but powerful language. Its syntax is very similar to JavaScript (it's basically Java + graphics) and even someone like me, without much Java experience, can pick it up and be coding in no time.

For those without the time to read the article in full (though it's short, and I encourage you to), the conclusion is my favorite part:

Programming in general eventually gets hard; you have to embrace the mathematics at some point in the game. But there's nothing like inspiration as a motivator. Just the other day, I had an e-mail conversation with graphics guru Robert Hodgin, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. At RISD, we don't have much mathematics training to speak of, and Roger left without much algorithmic know-how. But he is now extremely skilled with a sophisticated mathematical repertoire, because he has made the leap from pigments and straightedges to numbers and relational symbols. He wanted to learn what at first was hard. In the end, it's just work. And artists know how to work!

Processing was written and developed by two boys next door who are also visual and computational geniuses. Fry and Reas wrote it for themselves--and also for the world at large, to help everyone share in the rich vocabulary of computational expression. Processing exemplifies my core belief about education today: let the new generation do their thing and just get out of their way. Download it today, and play.

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