The world, you may have noticed, is pretty janky. Despite the best efforts of rationalists to make it into something logical, it persists in being elusive, singular, barely holding together.
Jankiness is powerful. I learned this lesson from the fate of the Lisp Machine, a computing environment built by hackers for hackers in which everything was guided by a powerful and minimal esthetic. This very particular quality is beloved by those who experience it, but elusive. Lisp Machine should have taken over the world, but instead they are historical curiosities, buried by their Worse is Better competitors. Whereas Lisp was beautiful, the janky Unix/C software was hardy. Ted Nelson's vision of hypertext was beautiful, the real-world internet is layers of jank. In both its architecture and uses.
Jankiness is the consequences of the playing out of Worse is Better. Nothing is as integrated as it should be. Nothing lives up to its vision. The present is ruled by a mediocre network of mediocre technologies, not the beautiful integrated whole we were supposed to have.
Jankiness involves beauty admitting defeat, which is kind of terrible and nobody wants to face that. It requires a humility, a recognition that one will never dwell in or build utopia.
Possibly related: Awkwardness, a janky quality of human relationships.
Romanticism is janky esthetics, opposite to the sort of cool formal elegance of the classical or the modern or the mathematical.
I feel like I am trying to talk myself into something: Embrace the Jank
Something Zen about it. That is to say, Mind is inherently janky, it eludes itself, it refuses to be captured in a formal logic. Koans are janky thoughts that expose the jankiness of mind.
insert standard disclaimer that I don't know beans about Zen and am not qualified to talk about it.
Also maybe related: Rudy Rucker's gnarl. And also 'Pataphysics with its focus on the exceptional.
Title is another one of those ironic ones that nobody seems to get. Jankiness is inherently resistant to general theories, duh.
As a builder of software, jankiness is my enemy, it represents wasted effort. Things that are elegant are those that just work, things that are janky require constant effort to keep them duct-taped together. But as a human being, I rejoice in the jankiness of life, it is what keeps us free, illegible, and off the radar of those who would like to control us.
Ken rec: A Tear at the Edge of Creation: A Radical New Vision for Life in an Imperfect Universe, Gleiser