Code-switching and what really happened to me at Netflix
I learned the technical term “Code-switching” in a diversity and inclusion session at work.
Code-switching is divided into two types: language-based and culture-based, according to psychologist Beverly Tatum, PhD, race relations expert and author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
Code-switching is shifting or manipulating one's behaviors to appeal to a different crowd or audience
Code-switching can also be about altering your appearance to fit the norm of the environment you're in.
Turns out I've been code-switching vocally since I was hooked on phonics as a child. It was only natural for me to code-switch as a software professional.
Then a pandemic happened.
I started code-switching in my own apartment.
Nah, not on my watch.
“I'm not trapped in here with you; you're trapped in here with me.”
Imagine I said this totally outloud at the button on the remote that says “Netflix”.
I stopped code-switching.
I wrote memos fully expressing and articulating myself as a human being. My dreams, my passions, my ambitions, my faults, and my failures.
It was nuts. People were like, “Yo, you can't just say that. Like, I fully and entirely agree with you, but like yo, you're gonna get yourself fired.”
And it didn't matter. I was still writing software that met the success criteria. I wasn't fired. My thoughts and opinions on the way of life and the world and how I fit into it do not matter to a global corporation. They only care about results and I gave them results.
I wasn't changing the world and the company in the way I thought I would.
So I stopped code-switching my code.
I committed digital suicide in my personal and professional life. Deleted my socials. Stopped using a Macbook. Ran from compilers and fully embraced scripting.
Wrote my own developer and designer tooling. Rejected the english bias. Literally began communicating in a foreign language that only I understood.
That's what happened. And I don't regret it because I stand for something I believe in and I like the friends I've made since coming into my own voice.
In other words
English is spoken by 20% of the world. English is required by 100% of software.
Therefore, to learn software one must first learn english.
Therefore, the most universally accessible software will require the least amount of english.
Upon following this rationale, I set out to determine a dictionary that might be taught to a non digital native to not only understand technology, but to communicate with it.
On: A workflow to be triggered when any concept is engaged in some capacity.
Read: Access current conceptual information.
Render: A documented representation of shared human and computer concepts.
Style: A declarative agreement on how a concept should be presented.
Write: Distribute new conceptual information.
That's the dictionary. However, it is not only words, it is code.
I wrote the first version in native web, but any language designer could adopt this terminology and abstraction.
While culturally valuable, this type of research simply is not in scope for an entertainment company in a downturned economy, so I lost funding.
With other factors contributing to downsizing, there simply wasn't another opportunity for me to be slotted into.
However, had things gone the way I envisioned them, this approach would be taught around the world to make the Netflix application more culturally vibrant, since any region could have a custom tailored experience made by themselves for themselves without needing to assimilate imperially to english computer completely or surrender to artificial intelligence.
I called that vision Mondrian and the people I respected understood it, which was all I needed to stand alone even though the easier path was to just code-switch and keep my job.