Writing With Data: A Study of Coding on a Data-Journalism Team

Excerpt of Ray’s JavaScript code written during the health-texting project. Line numbers match the original file, as a means to indicate excluded elements noted within the square brackets.


Coding has typically been understood as an engineering practice, where the meaning of code has discrete boundaries as a technology that does precisely what it says. Multidisciplinary code studies reframed this technological perspective by positing code as the latest form of writing, where code’s meaning is always partial and dependent on situational factors. Building out from this premise, this article theorizes coding as a form of writing with data through a qualitative case study of a web developer’s coding on a data-journalism team. I specifically theorize code as a form of intermediary writing to examine how his coding to process and analyze data sets involved the construction and negotiation of emergent problems throughout his coding tasks. Findings suggest how he integrated previous coding experience with an emerging sense of how code helped him write and revise the data. I conclude by considering the implications of these findings and discuss how writing and code studies could develop mutually informative approaches to coding as a situated and relational writing activity.

In Written Communication
Chris Lindgren
Chris Lindgren
Professor of Technical Communication and Data Visualization

My research interests include the relations created when writing code and theorizing the digital cultural rhetorics of white supremacy in the United States.