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Programming languages are no longer just tools; they have become a means for experimentation and self-expression. Esolangs (“esoteric programming languages”) make code out of punctuation, images, or whitespace, and build compilers that use existing text as unintentional programs. They challenge Western assumptions about what code should look like, and comment on how we communicate with the machine and with each other. They’ve been taken up by code artists for languages enacted as physical gestures, and by poets building on codework and Oulipo.

This workshop will begin with an overview of esolangs, taking a close look at specific pieces from both conceptual and technical perspectives. From there, we will collectively brainstorm new ideas for languages, and talk out how they might be constructed. I’ll show the beginnings of how to script parsers in JavaScript for those who want to take it further. While some familiarity with JavaScript is helpful, this workshop is open to anyone comfortable with code who wants to try their hand at designing strange new languages.