I read somewhere, likely in the annals of 37 Signals lore, that when you’re trying to build something its good to have an enemy. I always agreed with this but never really thought about who or what my particular enemy would be. But still, I loved the idea of an enemy. Spite after all is an amazing motivator and if there’s one thing you need when trying to do things like build your own platform for reading in a different, context-based way, its motivation.
So thinking of things in historical terms as I’m wont to do, I was trying to think of who would be my Stalin, my Farage, my Le Corbusier? Who or what would my arch nemesis, personified as a digital product, be?
The thing I keep on coming back to is as plain and stodgy of a thing that there ever was. But its ironically one that we should in true Stalinist fashion, eradicate and start over with. I’m still working on some really bad metaphor for Nigel Himmler, so keep your eyes here for updates on that. On another note, why do I hate Le Corbusier? Because he thought he was beyond building buildings for people and I can’t think of another example of design being exactly for the opposite of what its intended so I rank him up there.
Its textbooks. You remember those? Do they even still exist really for kids? They still do apparently, although less and less I suppose, but more importantly they still exist in a lots of places that can’t afford them and can’t afford to update them. More than anything textbooks exist in a form that people think may have used to work, but I don’t believe ever has, especially when talking about events of the past and events of the human experience.
Bastion was designed to provide different perspectives on things. I spoke at a conference recently called “Plural Pasts” where, among being accused of supporting fascism for showing another side to WWII history in ex-Yugoslavia, I showed that we can as people have different tools and lenses on the large, swarming mess that is history. You can look at Northern Ireland in terms of Bobby Sands as a terrorist (still the UK’s official stance likely) or him as a freedom fighter. You can see how events move over time and place. This is the point of Bastion – to have many points.
What doesn’t really have many points typically? Textbooks. What method forces to slog through, waist deep in painful reading at classroom gunpoint just to struggle through something to find something to relate to? Textbooks. What makes kids hate learning? Textbooks.
Bastion isn’t supposed to make reading a slog, its supposed to make it a gentle stroll, meandering and finding a path that interests you. So if you want to teach about The Storming of the Winter Palace of 1917 and a 16 year old girl in school can read about the events from the point of view of a girl her age in an embassy across the road, and be excited about learning, then I think its mission accomplished and we’re hopefully one step closer to putting textbooks up against the wall.