An Intro to Processing

This week we had the opportunity to explore Processing in our digital public history class and I am extremely stoked on it. Before exploring this software my understanding of coding was very abstract and something that I absolutely never thought I would be capable of. I am a visual learner and have always had to work very hard at grasping more advanced mathematical concepts. So in my mind coding was never something that would be accessible to me.  The format of Processing has completely shifted my perception.

Processing, as is explained on its website, is a software that is aimed at designers and visual creators (for lack of a better term). The language is extremely easy to follow in the context of a digital medium or platform and I was amazed by how much could be produced with the knowledge of simple commands. Before our scheduled class this week we were instructed to download the software and go through some of the introductory modules if we were interested. I attempted a good portion of the tutorial and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The videos in the Hello Processing module are easy to understand are explained very clearly. It is hard to explain how it felt to input some basic commands, and lines of code and see a result appear before me. I couldn’t believe creating something, even something basic, on a canvas felt so easy. Below I will include a screenshot of one of my first Processing Tests.

Screen Shot 2018-11-06 at 10.34.09 PM.png

While this test was just aimed at trying out the commands and doesn’t serve any functional purpose it felt like an accomplishment. I should add that I am still impressed that even something like this looks visually interesting even though all I coded were the shapes, colours and attached the motion to my mouse.

These tests were also helpful when it came time for our class where we began to work on more complicated projects. During class we once again started with the basics with the goal of working up to creating maps. The idea was that maps could be potentially helpful in the context of our final project in the course. This more advanced side of Processing was still very legible and intuitive. I should mention that we did not come up with the commands for map making on our own. We were very fortunate to have the assistance of Devon Elliot, without whom, I’m sure we all would have been quite lost. Devon was so helpful at explaining the function of commands along the way and pointing us to extra resources.

Considering that I was blown away by that first test imagine how I felt seeing a map of Canada on my canvas that also included coloured points for a list of Historic Sites. I am still floored. Truly, I never thought these things were this accessible and I would suggest that anyone who is curious play around with it.

I am now trying to think of ways that I can apply Processing to my final project. The main motivation behind using Processing for this would be because I enjoyed it so much but I am concerned that I do not have the skill level required to do what I want (yet?). My original plan was to work with Storymaps through GIS, another platform I really enjoyed exploring. For my proposed project Storymaps is probably a better fit but I am not quite ready to give up the Processing dream. My final project is centred around juxtaposing landscapes, as articulated by different cultures at different historic times, with the actual landscape, as seen on a map. Storymaps would be an ideal tool for creating this but I wonder if there isn’t some way to use Processing as well. More updates to follow.

Above is an example of the content that would be enhanced by Storymaps or Processing in the final project. I am going to link the Hello Processing tutorial as I have already linked Processing above.

And here is an ode to Processing and my attempts to make it work for my final project:–r8

2 thoughts on “An Intro to Processing

  1. I enjoyed your perspective on coding Hetty! And I agree, Devon Elliot’s tutorial was incredibly helpful. Dan’s “Hello Processing” tutorial was very clear and enjoyable (his enthusiasm is contagious), but I couldn’t imagine how on earth we were going to get from coding simple shapes and colors to creating an entire map. It is amazing what a few (several) lines of code can do. That said, I am not sure I feel confident enough to embark on a coding project myself just yet, and I have been continuing to work with Storymaps. But I am also curious how you are getting on with Processing, and look forward to hearing your adventures!


  2. Hetty, I had a very similar experience as you during the Processing tutorials and our session with Devon. I am not math oriented or computer-savvy either, but definitely a visual learner. I was blown away by what can be done through coding, and am curious to explore this for the final project as well. I want to create a juxtaposition of heritage buildings comparing the past and the present, and am wondering if I can do this through Processing using the “Blending” feature. As you explore Processing more, it’ll be great to hear what you find is working to enhance your Story-map juxtaposing landscapes. Best of luck!!


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