#5 — Buzzwords

While writing the last blog entry, I came across an issue that may turn out to be relevant to taking under consideration for answering my research question. Therefore, this blog entry serves as an “interim” post to discuss and contextualize my thoughts and, in the best case, provide scientific input.

The starting point constituted the following sentence from the article What You’re Getting Wrong About Inclusive Design I read for blog post #4: “Inclusivity. It’s one of the biggest buzzwords inside corporations right now. But the person who brought the practice of inclusive design to Microsoft-Kat Holmes-isn’t so sure that companies really get the idea yet.”

The statement above immediately started an inner discourse and ‘trains of thought’:

Trains of thought’:

„For topics that are socially relevant, specific terms develop in the media that stand for the "whole issue". In principle, this is a good idea, since it is easier for people to grasp something complex that has been presented in a simplified way. However, this observation seems extremely ambivalent to me. As much as umbrella terms emerge to take up important social issues, summarize them and make them accessible, they abstract the substance behind the actual issue. This is furthered by the inflationary use of those terms. Polarization occurs very quickly. Either everyone wants to adorn themselves with the feathers or is reluctant to put them on.
This can be seen very well with the term sustainability. Everyone knows very well that sustainability is important. Due to the inflationary use of the word, one reads about sustainability everywhere. From it two groupings developed. Those who have integrated sustainability into their lives and are convinced of its importance, and those who exploit sustainability by using it as a marketing strategy (keyword greenwashing within companies). It becomes intangible to the gross consumer as all is sustainable without communicating exactly how and why. This fosters that people can no longer relate to the topic, because it has become too general and it might causes anger that „suddenly everything has to be sustainable“, and if „I am not as sustainable as possible I am less worth“, whereby also fear of change plays a role. A similar problem takes place with inclusive design relating to this excuse of issue addressing in society and media. Everything has to be inclusive, because it is socially important to think inclusive / to be diverse.“
Trains Of Thought — Mood

These ‘trains of thought’ were the starting point of the considerations after which I did my further research on buzzwords.  


In fact, in many areas the problems of buzzwords are discussed and in many cases there is a political and economic factor that cannot be denied. The digital research shows that the topic around buzzwords, took place 5-10 years ago and only little current reports or statements can be found. However, the content is in keeping with the times.

In a dossier by Thomas Niehr published on the website of the German Federal Agency for Political Education in 2010 it was demonstrated that buzzwords are an excellent linguistic instrument for implementing strategies because they can be used to influence people’s thoughts and feelings.

Thus, the language strategy usually consists of strengthening one’s own position while devaluing that of the opponent. To get an approximate idea of the strategic impact of buzzwords, one needs to know who has used that buzzword in public discourse and in what way. This is especially true for buzzwords that are used to refer to controversial political ideas. Especially in public debate buzzwords are used to propagate certain demands and programs.

On the one hand, when a buzzword hits the zeitgeist and the program it contains finds many supporters, the so called “battle for words” sets in: Different groups will try to pass off the buzzword as their own, to “occupy” the buzzword for themselves. On the other hand, buzzwords are evaluated very differently depending on one’s views. For some, their association might be very positive, for other it is a synonym for the exact opposite. A distinction is therefore made between positive buzzwords and fighting- or stigma-words. The latter are used to discredit the ideas of the opponent, which is f. e. often used in political context.

Peter Josef Harr — Bedrohtes Menschsein.

What makes a word a buzzword?

It can be stated that there are no words that are buzzwords per se. Words require certain environmental conditions in order to be used as buzzwords at all. The existence of a public sphere in which buzzwords can be used and received is essential. If a demand or a program becomes explosive in such a public and is represented by a grouping, a buzzword can emerge. In retrospect, it becomes clear that such a buzzword has emerged in public discourse and has suddenly been used very frequently. This is true, for example, of environmental protection from the 1970s onward. 

Some buzzwords acquire international significance and therefore also circulate, sometimes even with a time lag in different language communities. Therefore, it makes sense to analyze other structures (Note: Shape user research internationally).

Anything that you don’t want to implement for its own sake, but for an image, cannot work in my opinion.

Which leads to my conclusion that the Establishment of UX can not be driven by a specific terminology or buzzword like „Establishing UX“ rather by an unconscious process combined with political support, otherwise change will not be possible.

The questions I’m asking myself now are: Do I need buzzwords to establish a new approach to UX? Do I even need to get rid of them to make it work? And if I use some buzzwords, how dangerous or essential could they become to the process of establishment?

Buzzwords that came to my mind during research and that I recently encounter in everyday life:

Big Data
(derived from buzzword „environmental protection“)

Thomas Niehr (1993): Schlagwörter im politisch-kulturellen Kontext. Zum öffentlichen Diskurs in der BRD von 1966 bis 1974. Wiesbaden.
Thomas Niehr (2007): “Schlagwort”. In: Ueding, Gert (Hrsg.): Historisches Wörterbuch der Rhetorik, Bd. 8. Tübingen, Sp. 496-502.
Harr, Peter Josef. Bedrohtes Menschsein. Eine kritische Analyse unserer Gesellschaft unter dem Aspekt der Liebe. Lit Verlag. Berlin, 2009. S.87
Buzzword Innovation — article: „Moving beyond buzzwords.“ by Dov Greenbaum and Markk Gerstein
2 books reflecting on society’s semantic station with „innovation“. In both books innovation was stated out as a term that has been reduced to a buzzword. Both books are valuable in forcing us to appreciate what is truly valuable to society. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abd9805

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.