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BRANCH MAGAZINE: Finding beauty in the imperfect

Spring 2024, Branch issue 8, Finding beauty in the imperfect. A collaboration between Green Web Foundation and Wholegrain Digital

Our latest edition, Issue 8, has just been published. In the spirit of previous issues, Branch 8 is a collaboration between ourselves and the good folks at Wholegrain Digital, long time collaborators of ours on the Sustainable Web Design methodology.

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We’ve been funding and publishing Branch magazine since 2020 on behalf of the community. Branch is an online magazine written by and for people who dream of a sustainable and just internet for all, and proud recipient of the Ars Electronica award for Digital Humanity in 2021, the world’s longest-running media art awards.

Branch is also designed to be ‘demand responsive’ to adapt to and reflect the physical infrastructure of the internet and the energy behind it. Utilising data from a grid intensity API and the user’s location, Branch has different interface designs that are shown dependent on the current energy demand and fossil fuels on the grid where the user is. More the demand responsive principles.

ISSUE overview

As we put the 23 individual articles of this issue together and stepped back, we realised that the theme of “finding beauty in the imperfect” can be viewed not only as a mindset, but also as a loose journey guiding us on how to build a just, sustainable and more humane web. The grouping of these articles into four categories reflects that:

  1. Meaningful connection
  2. Solarpunk and other speculative features
  3. Design philosophy
  4. Perfection is the enemy of progress

If Branch and the concept of a “demand responsive” website is new to you, you might enjoy our video where we briefly explain the concept and history of Branch before diving into what the issue contains.

Introducing Branch issue 8: Finding beauty in the imperfect

In this video Hannah and Marketa, the guest editors for Branch issue 8, talk through what Branch is and what you can expect to find in issue 8. The theme centers on an open examination of how we can find beauty in the imperfect, especially in the context of creating a just, sustainable and humane internet for all.

Or for a visual overview of the content and articles we have an issue 8 slidedeck.

Alternatively just dive into issue and start reading now!

The four categories mentioned above, and the amazing pieces found within, are also explained in more detail in the editor’s letter. Here’s the introduction of that letter.

Issue 8 editor’s letter – why this theme?

Written by Hannah Smith and Marketa Benisek, issue 8 guest editors.

Issue 8 of Branch originates from a shared place of frustration. A frustration that we’re all holding ourselves back from making the internet a better place for everyone – because the illusion of perfectionism can loom too large. It can catch us, like a rabbit in the headlights, rooting us firmly to the spot whilst danger hurtles towards us in the form of runaway climate change. Leaving us unsure which decisions will be the best ones. Thinking surely someone else will do it better than we ever could. Wondering if our efforts are likely to make any useful impact at all. 

But one thing we can have certainty about, is that thoughts like this deserve to be challenged.

Well ahead of working on Branch together, we (Marketa at Wholegrain Digital and Hannah at Green Web Foundation, this issues’s guest editors), often found ourselves talking about how we were overcoming thoughts like these. We share a context of seeking to build improved digital emission measurement methodologies and the frequent pushback against them in our day jobs.

So we’ve been counselling ourselves to keep at it. To keep finding ways to progress amongst the imperfections and setbacks of what we were working on, especially on the hard days. To keep striving to create something meaningful. Something we could regard as a type of beauty, even if not everyone sees it that way. 

It wasn’t long before we’d end calls with each other using the shorthand of “remember to find some beauty in that imperfect today!”.

Somewhere along the way, we realised something else – we’re not alone in these struggles. 

Anyone working to create meaningful change is also likely to feel frustrated like this. Perhaps it could be helpful to see how others in this field tackle things, and find the will to keep at it? What could we learn from the wider tech community and wider sustainability community? What other practices are out there that might inspire and guide us? Most importantly, where do we look for hope in the face of increasingly severe climate change?

And so the concept of openly examining how you might “find beauty in the imperfect”, especially in the context of creating a just, sustainable, and more humane internet emerged.

Issue 8 is above all an expression of the thoughts that linger in the minds of many, but that are spoken aloud by only a few. Here we can highlight the importance of going back to basics, especially in today’s world overrun by screens and speed, to envision what the internet should actually bring to humanity. Accepting that these subjective answers will be imperfectly beautiful in themselves.

This issue is an ode to this exploration, and the many fascinating perspectives found along the way. Our hope is that this issue’s theme will resonate with you, like it did for us. Perhaps not perfectly. But maybe through connecting you to some of the 35 or so authors that shared their thoughts with us, and by extension, you.

We hope you feel the beauty of the human connection through this online magazine. 

Hannah and Marketa
Issue 8 Guest Editors

Thank yous

This issue of Branch could not have been brought to you without the guidance and support of the managing editors, Michelle Thorne and Chris Adams. A million thank yous for letting us loose on this experiment.

Chris Lewis and Georgie Monaghan, at Wholegrain Digital, also took a massive leap of faith in this project by agreeing to collaborate. Thank you!

A huge thank you is owed to Brett Duboff, who helped us and our authors find imagery that brought their pieces to life. Brett, you’ve been so patient throughout, thank you!

We also owe a huge debt of gratitute to Clarote, who illustrated us a beautiful front cover and gave us much joy with her interpretation of the theme.

And of course, we must also thank our 36 contributors who we worked with to craft and share their perspectives. We are enormously grateful and have learned so much from you all.

Alana Jade, Alistair Alexander, Bárbara Paes, Eric Zie, Filippa Furniss, Graham Martin, Hemanuel Veras, Jesse Thompson, Jo Lindsay Walton, Joanna Murzyn, Kim Lea Rothe, Lima Dastgeer, Linzi Ricketts, Luna Maurer, Mary Pitt, Melissa Hsiung, Mica Le John, Michelle Barker, Michelle Whitehead, Mike Masey, Min, Nat Darke, Nick Lewis, Oliver Cronk, Olivia Johnson, Rob Hopkins, Roel Wouters, Rory Brown, Samantha Ndiwalana, Sammy Harper, Sandra Pallier, Simon Blackler, Teresa A. Zeck, Thorsten Jonas, Tom Greenwood, Tommy Ferry.