There is a deep sense of where and how representation matters. Then there are less critical, but still important ways in which presentation counts. It includes talking about stereotypes, and calling out inappropriate labeling. Concepts matter, clarity matters, transparency matters. So here are two situations that are worth critiquing.
The first one that struck me this morning was an announcement. A researcher has created a petition asking Pew Research to stop using the ‘generations’ label. They’ve been using it in their research, and yet (as the petition points out) their own research shows it’s problematic.
Now this is a myth I called out in my last book (specifically on the topic of problematic beliefs). There are several complaints, such as that the boundaries are arbitrary, and the stereotyping is harmful. While we can differ by age, discrepancies are better explained by experience than by ‘generation’.
Another problem came in an article I was connected to on LinkedIn. In it, they were making the case for micro learning. While there are great reasons to tout the benefits of small bits of timely content, they didn’t really distinguish the uses. Which is a problem, since the different uses require different designs.
Here’s where representation matters. Pew Research’s reputation, in my mind, has gone down. I used to fill out some surveys from them, and stopped because the assumptions in the categories they were using were problematic. Finding out that they’re a major proponent of generations only aggravates that. Can I really trust any results they cite when the foundations are flawed?
Similarly, the organization that’s touting micro learning solutions has just undermined any belief in their credibility to actually do this appropriately. When you tout stuff in ways that show you don’t understand the necessary principles, you damage your reputation. I’m not likely to want to use this firm to design my solutions.
I push strongly for accuracy. This includes evidence-informed design, conceptual clarity, and transparency of motives. If you tout something, do so in a scrutable way. Marketing malarkey only muddies the water, and our industry has enough of a credibility problem.
Yes, there are more important ways representation matters: for kids to see themselves in culturally desirable roles, for voices to be heard. This is a less important aspect, but quality matters. Look at what you are saying, and ensure that it’s worth your audience’s time!