Home > Self-referential > “half a bridge”

“half a bridge”

A quick Google search on the phrase “building half a bridge” returns only a relative handful of hits, most of them having to do with mismatches in problems, policies, and projects.

When I have found the term used as part of a public policy issue there is usually an obvious and well-defined problem and a policy that is supposed to address the problem. The policy in turn leads to a program that has a definite life of its own: it gets funded, it runs for a period of time, the money runs out and the project terminates, leaving behind a bunch of paper and other artifacts. The term “building half a bridge” arises when the project finishes and the problem remains unaddressed: either the policy is wrong, the policy and project are mismatched, the project gets canceled or otherwise goes off the rails, or the problem changes in such a way that the project (or even the policy) is no longer appropriate.

The term is evocative: a half a bridge is something big and obvious, half-constructed (typically) or half-torn-down (rarely) that starts someplace solid and ends up nowhere useful. And the half-bridge by itself is just the object and may or may not provide any clues to the historical narrative that explains it, and an observer is left to invent a story that fits the evidence to explain the half-bridge.

I decided to adopt the term as the name of this blog because

  1. It was available when I went looking for a blog name
  2. It isn’t aspirational
  3. It’s a useful image for describing a lot of missed connections, especially where two people have an argument, each of them technically correct from his perspective, but not actually meeting in the middle and discussing the same thing in the same words.

It’s this last point, of course, that’s the most helpful. I often find myself with a foot in each of two worlds, each of them describing the other in terms familiar to the speaker and foreign to the person being described. And this is the problem I will come back to repeatedly in later posts.

Categories: Self-referential
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