Afterthought-driven Development

Let’s face it. I am a marked user, but not everybody knows my name. “Brain damaged” and “defiant,” “dramatic” and “inspirational,” “mentally ill,” “slow,” “troll,” “victim,” a “sporadic,” or “elderly”: I describe a locus of confounded identities, a meeting ground of investments and privations in the internet treasury of rhetorical wealth. My web needs me, and if I were not here, I would have to be invented.

At one stroke, I would say: if you do not personally know me, you do not have an epistemic nor ethical right to disclose or describe me as “mentally ill”; that is, if you can say no more than this, and that you think it in some sense sets what expectations others should have of me. You’re pretending to be a doctor, and in doing so, harming the public writ large, online and offline. I recently witnessed someone describe me as such, trying to pacify a situation, as if one is entitled to say anything whatsoever so long as the situation, in one’s own best estimate, requires it. Charming how epistemic negligence has emerged at the agora, in Houston, masked as “multiculturalism.”

But what’s this post about, not just that developers seem to think anything they cannot see just is “the philosophy” of the day. What got me thinking is that most developers generally do not know that more than 90% of websites are inaccessible, and they still carry on as if this de facto second-class citizenship is not worth discussing or thinking about. It never crosses their minds. I’ve drawn the connection here to racism and sexism, generally (just as Ruha Benjamin has in Race After Technology; see Everyday Coding): it just doesn’t cross people’s minds. And obviously just doing what’s “good enough” in the government’s eyes; i.e., 508c, is trivializing of the wider problem: whence cometh pessimism? — or is it [pessimism] nothing more than the logical extension of humanism (Infinite Resignation. Eugene Thacker)? So then the infinite task to make it a beforethought turns on being “kind” and what not: people systematically left out are expected to be more graceful than those who inherit systems which systematically excluded the other.

… What’s in a name? Your family story, your religion, your nationality, your gender identity, your race and ethnicity? What assumptions do you think people make about you on the basis of your name? What about your nicknames — are they chosen or imposed? From intimate patterns in dating and romance to large-scale employment trends, our names can open and shut doors. Like a welcome sign inviting people in or a scary mask repelling and pushing them away, this thing that is most ours is also out of our hands. (Race After Technology. Ruha Benjamin.)

How much of “web development” when it comes to REST vs. everything else, accessibility, architecture, learnability, training, agility, etc. is an afterthought?, often reminded to you by a developer or manager who thinks efficiency (neoclassical theory anybody? P=W+R+I, eh eh??), a singular dimension, indeed, is what trumps even agile’s treatment of “uncertainty,” is the end all, be all of “development productivity” (the aforementioned “P”, which stands for Production, by the way: can you guess the others?, and bonus: is it not simply wrong?)?

Curious is it that the world only expects us to be kind; as I sit at bars, after having “pro-actively fought racism” at work, as per my diversity training, the “anti-woke” on the street demand to know why I do not sleep with black women. Should I bring children into such a world that seems committed to forgetting those in dark, behind “structural barriers to equitable access”?

It seems like whenever I conceive myself as others see me, what I see is someone thinking of a person who has 15 minutes to live, and only whatever is possible within the next 15 minutes matters (Timothy Morton, in Dark Ecology, calls this “shrinking the temporality window,” I paraphrase, through hetereonormative agrilogistic thinking, or “easy think substance”). I cannot worried about what kind of world I will give my children, but if I mention that they are “black,” I myself am now “racist.” If I worry that she might be a born a girl, I am now “pessimistic.” People have so many labels that pin on me, which they love to hate, and yet somehow, out of all of this, I am supposed to be productive until death (bearing in my mind, while no one else does, apparently, that black men have the lowest life expectancy, which is just as apparently rude to mention at parties, of any sort, or, well, anywhere, really, in this increasingly polarized country — coincidence?); where sometime before this, then, I will be expected to write, perhaps a book as many tell me, since I am so “articulate” — too articulate to be worth working with or for — , or a will that will be a blank page, because none of the words I use will be acceptable to those “just doing their jobs.”

And the list doesn’t stop there: my “mixed” or “paradoxical” heritage and all is “bait”, “opportunistic” and so on, to the newer generations whose parents were too ashamed to teach them their own history. Now apparently those colonized people’s have a job to do, on top of their day job: re-educate the masses that we don’t fit into neat little boxes (anymore). As I have aged over the years, even as I have often found myself in disbelief at other’s disbelief that I actually need glasses — that I am actually near-sighted, and without them, things get weird: I forget stuff, I lose things, people think I’m mean-mugging them… And they have many more labels for this episodes in my life, like when I actually lose them for a spell, and I simply cannot afford them in a hurry; obviously at such junctures, people think I am socially experimenting, just because I am actually too poor to afford a new pair. Or I’ve simply got to wait for the new pair. Curious how much of the “masculinity” trope (pornotrope?) overrides others actual expectations or assumptions about my actual health. I don’t want to be that guy, always raising a stink; but didn’t COVID-19 teach us that we probably should’ve been raising more critiques, not less? That we cannot carry on “business as usual,” “minding our own business” in what seems like not nothing but other than a tragedy of the commons made fashionable: what doesn’t make tragedy only makes you dramatic!

I’m trying to be optimistic, truly, I am; — I perhaps desire too earnestly honestly beginning in this 21st-century. But tell me, is this a shared understanding, once and for all? Should I not (just) work myself out of a life, which the buddhists tell me is one in which I am to seek “meaningful truth” regardless of my circumstances?



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