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Sam Osborn
Sam Osborn

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Metamodernism for Software Developers

The present is a symptom of the twin birth of immediacy and obsolescence. Today, we are nostalgists as much as we are futurists. The new technology enables the simultaneous experience and enactment of events from a multiplicity of positions.
-Luke Turner, Metamodernist Manifesto

This isn’t an introduction to Metamodernism, and this isn’t a manifesto. It is a deep dive into the ideas seeded in both. It’s an asking of a question: “What does metamodernist software feel like?”

Metamodernsim is interested in the sincere and the romantic in opposition to the “deconstruction, irony, pastiche, relativism, nihilism, and the rejection of grand narratives” of post-modernism. It is fundamentally obsessed with oscillation between states: that is to say it is dialectal. Metamodernism says there is sincere meaning to be found, and the answer comes from the oscillation between positions.

As Luke Turner proscribes, “We must go forth and oscillate!”


  • Between software and reality: Find substance in the world outside of the digital. Ground the work we do in the dirty world you inhabit. Use paper, and assume your users use paper. Write code that imagines people at desks, people who spill drinks.

  • Between microservices and monoliths: Microservices are agnostic and independent. They wait for something to touch them and react. Monoliths are mystically large and create space for the explicitly intentional and the deeply complex. Oscillate between agnosticism and mysticism.

  • Between convention and configuration: Vibrate between the hardness of configuration and softness of convention. There is room there to create something that is at once sharply defined and forgiving.

  • Between using and building: Use the software you write, to know it completely. If you can’t do that, talk frankly and lightly with the people who do use it.

  • Between practical and beautiful: Tuner writes: “Just as science strives for poetic elegance, artists might assume a quest for truth”

  • Between mobile and static: Do you want people thinking about your software everywhere? Anywhere? All the time? What happens when you let people take a break?

  • Between dense and minimal: Show people what they need to see to do the jobs they want to do.

  • Between self-serving and ethical: Jobs need to be done. Some jobs hurt people. Wiggle in the space between those facts.

  • Between public and private: Share, mindfully, and not on other's behalf.

  • Between agility and intentionality: There is a good and useable space between progress and purpose. We need to make sure things are moving forward, keeping pace with our ever changing environment, but growth for the sake of growth is the attitude of a cancer cell.

Cover Image: Odd Nerdrum, You See We Are Blind

Top comments (2)

erikaheidi profile image
Erika Heidi

This is awesome. As someone who never read about metamodernism before, but always trying to find meaning in things, I was surprised and delighted with this deeper view of software engineering. Thank you for sharing!

kenbellows profile image
Ken Bellows

Man, some legit philosophy on! That's nice to see 🙂