Rhetoric and Human Computer Interaction

As I was reviewing for my ISC 310: Human Computer Interaction midterm a few days ago, I reread this definition of user experience (UX) design:

“the creation and synchronization of the elements that affect users’ experience with a particular company, with the intent of influencing their perceptions and behavior.”

With a few minor changes, this is a great definition of rhetoric – and I had to laugh (silently, to myself) when I realized I couldn’t escape rhetoric, not even in an Information Science course.

I began to think about the last part of the UX definition: “…with the intent of influencing their perceptions and behaviors.” I was reminded of how powerful words are, and how many words we have to use at our disposal. I used to think that we had this whole vocabulary at our disposal; now I’m beginning to think we are at the disposal of our vocabulary. The way we talk about things affects not only how others think of those things, but how we think of those things. Words influence perceptions and behaviors.

Are you having a busy day, or a full day? Are you lost, or exploring? Do you look up to the sky, or towards the heavens? Do you care for Mother Earth, or for weathered rock and plant matter? Does it matter? I think it does. Every time you use a particular word over another to describe something, you are making an argument about what the thing is and your relationship to it. You’re also making an argument for how others should relate to it. Mind your words, and mind your arguments. Your words and how you use them are a lot more powerful than you might think.

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