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Intersection of Coding and Culture

This photo is from a beauty pageant contest in which artificial intelligence was used to award the most beautiful lady; needless to say, the factors influencing the award will be dependent on the data collected to build the AI, based on the cultural schema of those that created the AI.

Dominant cultures embedded in our technologies, unfortunately, enforces certain beauty standards, so when technologies are not representative of as many cultures as possible this causes harm in different areas of life.

I recently attended a Scratch Education Collaborative workshop as a volunteer with Teachathon Foundation; the workshop was about connecting culture, coding, and equity.

I like to share my thought regarding the intersection of culture and coding.

Firstly, let's understand how culture impacts our coding creativity. We acknowledge it or not culture is reflected, in lots of ways, shaping how we talk, think, and even how we code.

Culture is the software to the brain's hardware, like without software, the computer will be a hunk of metal, but once the software is open and engaged the computer knows what to do.

Culture is the norm, behaviors, and beliefs that bind a group together. Our brains have been collecting and connecting information through the lens of culture since birth. Culture is the network that connects information.

On the other hand, coding is communication with the computer and getting back a response. Coding is how we take things that are important to people, add innovations to them, and get them to provide value to the wider audiences in the form of software, website, applications, robots, AI, etc.

As programmers when we create content, design software, collect data, develop an algorithm and create emoji, unconsciously our cultural schema is reflected in all these things that we do. Cultural schema is how the brain organizes information and forms a collection of everything we know.

To illustrate, when creating an emoji for the word "OK" this may be done differently by as many designers, based on their cultural schema.


Culture and code are at a crossroads. In the space of creative computing, the way we create is either positioned to be neutral or sometimes can lean toward certain biases. Some current or immerging technologies are not necessarily representative of everyone's culture. They can often hold dominant culture, that’s why everyone must participate in creating and shaping technology.

Programmers should, in authentic ways, make sure that they tap into their cultural schema and identities when designing and creating technologies, thus ensuring that diverse cultures are represented rather than one or two dominant cultures been represented.

In conclusion, making sure everyone is participating and represented in shaping technology is a way to create a balance for fairness, originality, and equity. When some are not culturally acceptable or represented, the balance is tilted.

I believe the following ways can effectively intersect culture and coding

  • Decentralize dominant culture with coding creativity.
  • Creating technologies that opposes cultural biases.
  • Teaching learners to embrace others cultural beliefs.
  • Encourage coding creativity and cultural acceptance.
  • Bridging culture interferences in coding.

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