My name is Winston Hearn, and I am interested in all aspects of life. I read a lot of essays and articles and this blog is where I post links I want to reference later and thoughts stemming from recent readings.
I'm @justwinston on Twitter.
I write front-end code and make videos for a living, find out more here.
Hey cool you can make gifs with the tumblr dashboard now.
This is the written version of the presentation I gave in October for CSSDevConf in Estes Park Colorado. If you want a much better thought out and presented essay on the same lines, I recommend Frank Chimero’s "What Screens Want". Seriously, his is much better.
This talk is not about the technical aspects of css animations and transitions. Those are much better learned in the context of a tutorial online or reading the docs. I could probably spend an hour exploring them, but I’d get bored after 10 minutes and then how could I hold your attention?
So I’m going to focus on what motion is in the context of user interfaces, how it’s valuable, and some philosophical principles for how to employ it. I am interested in the design of interfaces not in how they look, but how they respond.
So let’s get started.
I spent Friday wiping tears from my eyes all day. Not tears of sadness or of joy, rather the tears that result when one feels deeply connected to the goodness of humanity. Watching Miles be BatKid - seeing the insane amount of people who turned out to cheer him on and be apart of the event - how wonderful. Sometimes we truly rise above all the shit and for a brief period the world feels beautiful and ok.
But after Miles went home to take a nap and dream about the day that San Francisco - sorry, Gotham - cheered him because he had saved them, I was left to wonder why this day seemed so anomalous. Even now, as tears run down my face from reflecting on how beautiful Friday was, I wonder why it seemed a bit disconcerting.
Let there be no confusion - Friday was beautiful and it was inspiring to watch it and I hope that Miles’ leukemia stays forever in remission so that for decades he can tell the stories of saving Gotham.
But my unease is in how hard it is for me to answer this: what would the story look like if a 5 year old girl wanted to be a superhero for a day? I don’t think it’s an awful question to ask, but the answers that I know of aren’t satisfactory, and it makes me uneasy. I don’t want Miles to not have had his day, I want this idea of communities rising up in really epic ways to be a thing that happens more often. But I’m not sure there exists within our pop-culture heroes a range of stories and characters that represent even the most superficial examination of the spectrum of humanity.
I know I’m not the first to question the lack of gender and racial diversity in pop culture. But I don’t know what else to do except to speak up when I see things that aren’t ok. Miles, and San Francisco’s incredible support of him on Friday were amazing. But the trouble I have imagining stories and days like that scaling beyond white boys, well, that’s awful. I hope this changes, even as I have no idea how change might happen.
I cannot know exactly how often my presentation of acceptable has helped me but I have enough feedback to know it is not inconsequential. One manager at the apartment complex where I worked while in college told me, repeatedly, that she knew I was “Okay” because my little Nissan was clean and I had worn a Jones of New York suit to the interview. She called the suit by name because she asked me about the label in the interview. Another hiring manager at my first professional job looked me up and down in the waiting room, cataloging my outfit, and later told me that she had decided I was too classy to be on the call center floor. I was hired as a trainer instead. I have about a half dozen other stories like this. What is remarkable is not that this happened. There is empirical evidence that women and people of color are judged by appearances differently and more harshly than are white men. What is remarkable is that these gatekeepers told me the story. They wanted me to know how I had properly signaled that I was not a typical black or a typical woman, two identities that in combination are almost always conflated with being poor.
In their 2009 book, The Spirit Level, epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett concluded that every societal problem, without exception, can be tied directly to income inequality. The United States has higher levels of mental illness, infant mortality, obesity, violence, incarceration, and substance abuse than almost all other “developed” countries. And we have the worst environmental record in the world. When they died, the twenty-nine West Virginia miners were digging coal that the rest of us consume twice as fast as Americans did in the 1970s. Yet still we leave unquestioned the overarching goal of infinite economic growth on a planet of finite resources. The American economist Kenneth Boulding once remarked, “Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever is either a madman or an economist.” But as we listen daily to the president, to members of Congress, and to the financial analysts who sail by on cable news, the dominant message is that endless economic growth is this country’s singular destiny.
This essay by Erik Reese is a thoughtful exploration of an alternative model of culture and business that is being practiced today. This model doesn’t necessitate a revolution to put in place, but mass adoption of these practices would without a doubt be revolutionary. If you’ve read any Wendell Berry, the principles in this essay will sound familiar. I mean, doesn’t this read like something Berry would publish?
Or, put in other terms, what if we took as our model not an economy of unchecked growth, but one based on the natural laws of the watershed? By its very nature, a watershed is self-sufficient, symbiotic, conservative, decentralized, and diverse. It circulates its own wealth over and over. It generates no waste, and doesn’t “externalize” the cost of “production” onto other watersheds. In a watershed, all energy is renewable and all resource use is sustainable. The watershed purifies air and water, holds soil in place, enriches humus, and sequesters carbon. It represents both a metaphor and a model for an entirely new definition of economy, whereby our American system of exchange in the realms of wealth and energy is brought into line with the most important and inescapable economy of nature.
I’m curious to explore more of the worker-owned cooperative business model. On its face, this model seems to reverse the negative single-minded focus on short-term profits that the shareholder-owned company is incentivized to pursue. A company where every employee has a voice and a vote and comes from the same community seems to have much greater incentive to focus on making sustainable choices that ensure long-term growth that’s good for everyone.
Reese’s essay sparked a lot of thought for me regarding business models but it also made me consider another question that rattles through my brain every so often. What is the long-term value of the internet?
To me it seems we’re in the Gold Rush days in regards to the internet. We keep hearing stories of people striking it rich - our very own Sutter’s Mill stories and so everyone is rushing to settle the internet. The way things are now may be how things always are, but perhaps not. And so the question is: if ever we sort out all the technological disruption and upheaval and confusion, what will remain?
The more I mull this question, the more I believe that the internet is not really the revolutionary force in our economy that the billionaires it has created would have you believe. I do not pretend to know enough to have an answer to what the Internet is – how I would love to take a few years to ask that question around the world. But I find that if you strip away the Silicon Valley aspect of technology - the “disrupt all the things” mindset and the almost religious belief that a smartphone app and a cloud server can solve all problems in the world - what seems most valuable is the aspect of the internet that first captured our attention: the ability to share information with other people. That value is immense, but information alone cannot change society.
The process of globalization started decades ago and then the internet came and now I can have someone in Asia answer my emails and make my dinner reservations so I’m able to focus on the important work I’m doing for a company based in Europe. Nearly everything I can buy started or spent some of its life overseas, and surely the internet has made this distribution of all the goods and services spread further, faster than possible without a near-instantaneous worldwide communications network.
So sure, globalization and decentralization were already happening before the internet, but its arrival seems to increased their spread exponentially and, at least in America, we are no better off for it. In fact, as Reese explores, most of us in America have it worse than we did a few decades ago.
To be honest, I have trouble including myself in the “we” because I’m middle-class and white and ultimately, despite the broader social forces at play, still have it immeasurably easier because of the structures of our society, but what I’m trying to say is that the economic and infrastructural revolutions of the past half-century have not improved life for all people and that means they are failing. If a rising tide lifts all boats, the tide is apparently not rising. We should do something about that.
So the internet is great, I guess, but it’s not the solution to our woes. I think that Reese’s suggestion outlines a far more realistic answer to the deep structural issues we face in America: giving every person more agency in their life and equal power in the broader structures of society, regardless of race or gender or sexuality or criminal history or anything else. No startup is going to create an app or website that can do this. No multi-national corporation has any reason to do this or want this. Only people integrated into communities, interacting regularly with their neighbors, asking hard questions and ultimately pursuing solutions that are tough and time-consuming and slow can find ways to truly give back agency and equality to the people most lacking it in America today. It’s a difficult, contextual problem with centuries of structural entrenchment.
I guess this is a long-winded way of saying I found more hope in this essay than I generally do when considering issues of injustice and structural inequality. Because of our decision to travel for a year or two, I’m about as disconnected from a community as one can be right now. So until I settle down again in a community, I want to study. To learn. To educate myself about injustice and about the work being done to eradicate them. To understand the good and the bad of globalization and disruption. To continue to understand the history and underlying structures of our society that harm so many people.
If you read the linked article, will you respond with other books/essays/studies/articles/tweets I should read? Both supporting arguments and counterpoints. I’m definitely at the point of not knowing what I don’t know on this issue, of not knowing what the best questions to ask are. I want to learn. And the internet is great for that.
Hopefully, HOPEFULLY, you are listening to 99% Invisible. It’s a delightful, exquisite podcast that is always fascinating.
Even if you do not listen regularly, however, I beg of you to listen to this episode. It’s… I can’t do it justice with words. It is worth your time.
And, coincidentally, they are kickstarting season 4 wherein they will produce the show weekly. How great will that be?! So great. I’m excited, and will be donating as soon as I have allowance.
No authority tracks what happens after a child is brought to America, so no one knows how often international adoptions fail. The U.S. government estimates that domestic adoptions fail at a rate ranging from “about 10 to 25 percent.” If international adoptions fail with about the same frequency, then more than 24,000 foreign adoptees are no longer with the parents who brought them to the United States. Some experts say the percentage could be higher given the lack of support for those parents.
Day care, in other words, has become a permanent reality, although the public conversation barely reflects that fact. The issue of child care is either neglected as a “women’s issue” or obsessed over in mommy-wars debates about the virtues of day care versus stay-at-home moms. Whether out of reluctance to acknowledge a fundamental change in the conception of parenthood—especially motherhood—or out of a fear of expanding the role of government in family life, we still haven’t come to terms with the shift of women from the home to the workplace.
A positive cause, still little noticed by high officials and the media, is the by now well-established effort to build or rebuild local economies, starting with economies of food. This effort to connect cities with their surrounding rural landscapes has the advantage of being both attractive and necessary. It rests exactly upon the recognition of human limits and the necessity of human scale. Its purpose, to the extent possible, is to bring producers and consumers, causes and effects, back within the bounds of neighborhood, which is to say the effective reach of imagination, sympathy, affection, and all else that neighborhood implies. An economy genuinely local and neighborly offers to localities a measure of security that they cannot derive from a national or a global economy controlled by people who, by principle, have no local commitment.