5 min read

42. Group chat

Spaces to be uncertain and have healthy debate, visualisations, information architecture
42. Group chat
Photo by kuu akura / Unsplash

I'm a bit obsessed with what is happening this month with female pop stars. While the big news in the UK is about Taylor Swift's Eras tour, there has been other things emerging like Sabrina Carpenter mixing her real-life relationship with actor into her lyrics, Chappell Roam's queer pop going mainstream, and Charlie xcx going back to her edgy pop with the release of her album Brat. The latter has caught my imagination as the album is decidedly matter of fact in its lyrics—even awkward—and that is intentionally inspired by what the singer would actually say to her friends for example in a group chat. The pinnacle of this is 'Girl, So Confusing', ostensibly about fellow singer Lorde. It gets better though, in that a remix has Lorde not only respond to the lyrics but turn it into an equally confessional acknowledgment of vulnerability, and, ultimately, solidarity. Listen to the original and then the remix in that order.

It highlights a wider discussion about what is means to have spaces to talk honestly about confusion when so many channels are performative (I also think even of Sabrina Carpenter's earlier album called Emails I Can't Send). Where does this slow-form discussion happen in our professions these days? Certainly conferences were often a space for this—maybe not even the conference but the hallway talks and so on—but as more events shutter this becomes less of a place to do so.

Designers definitely need safe spaces to road-test their ideas. From my experience, design education is as much about cultivating this practice as it is about craft skills. I was reminded of this when I attended Northumbria University's annual design graduate show Reveal earlier this month and snapped the poster on the wall about critique. I loved it for being clear about what critique is and isn't, but also more widely about the importance of opportunities to get better at presenting, communicating but even just articulating an idea.

Poster Critique is not criticism Critique poses questions / Criticism passes judgment Critique reveals opportunity / Criticism finds fault Critique is objective/ Criticism is personal Critique is specific / Criticism is vauge Critique bulds up / Criticism tears down Critique is altruistic / Criticism is ego-centric Critique is cooperative / Criticism is competitive Critique is beneficial/Criticism is harmful
Image from the Northumbria University design area

Another such space is the formal debate. Please don't use political debates as an example—I did a lot of debating as a child and the debates I know were a chance to research, dazzle… and above all remember that it's a competition but not personal. Sadly, I don't see formal debates happening much in design, so I was pleasantly surprised when Design Matters Denmark did a proper design debate on Tuesday on the topic of democratising design (including a Newcastle representative: Ade-Lee Adebiyi of SoPost). Aside from a great quote 'you need to know when your design is fire and when it's just a dumpster fire' I also loved Tey Bannerman's analogy of design needing to be like medicine and law and actually force a professional commitment:

And in a final take on group chats, I have been attending a lot of The Sensemakers Club sessions this month (conveniently they are usually 7pm UK time). There have been chats about sensemaking with language, bureaucracy and knowledge management amongst others. It's also stringently run in terms of code of conduct. It is a paid membership but is worth having a peruse if you want to engage with a community of practice.

This month in digital government and design


Meme of Home Simpson shirtless to Marge Simpson. Front of him is Japan to the rest of the world — bullet trains, robot store staff, electronic toilet seats, talking showers; back (with clips pulling back skin and fat): fax machines, paper filing, floppy disks, cash society