As you may or may not know, I joined a local publishing company here in Seattle called Diversity Central as an unpaid “social media marketing” intern. Already I’m learning it’s way harder than it looks, so kudos to all those people who make a career out of it.
Anyway, the company basically makes its living by publishing articles regarding diversity solutions in corporate settings. Honestly I’ve been a bit apprehensive as a subject, for a variety of reasons. One is, probably because I grew up Asian American living in Seattle and California where I don’t even feel like a minority, I regard inclusion in America as almost an outdated issue. Basically, I treat it with naively: how could there possibly be such issues in this day and age? So being involved in a company like this is pretty much being told that being female and technically a minority is a disadvantage.
The second is that to me the term “diversity” has become about as alienating as it is supposed to be inclusive. Maybe it’s because I’ve never actually experienced any bullying regarding my ethnic differences (again, my naivete). But, sometimes pointing out innate differences, no matter how good the intentions, seems just like an introduction into stereotypes 101. I see the point in talking about civil rights history as an example of something that was very, very wrong and something that should never be repeated, but in the context of the present it seems like pointing out something that isn’t broken. I know, there’s still racism and sexism etc. running around… even (especially?) in a place like America. BUT I still can’t help feeling it’s like saying “Well, not ALL [insert ethnicity or race] are [insert negative stereotype]” to someone who never believed that has the opposite effect. If we’re talking about companies and colleges, the controversy of Affirmative Action is a pretty good example of my apprehension. Well I don’t have any particular solutions, that’s just how I feel. But I digress.
I went to help out as cashier at a small bookstore stand for the Northwest Diversity Learning Series, which is basically a talk aimed at businesses about diversity and inclusion.
The speaker this time was Alan Richter. Despite my previously mentioned feelings, it was actually a good talk! Mostly because he broadened the definition of diversity to things past immediately obvious physical traits, to things that aren’t innate but fostered individually (he calls them secondary, and specified that that doesn’t mean less important but I think choosing a different term might be beneficial).
The kind of “a-ha” moment where it stopped being a beating of the “DIVERSITY IS GOOD” horse and became a relevant and interesting talk is when he talked about different cultures as different modes of operations, which then affects the kind of engagement they take part in. I don’t really remember (or know if I should repeat) the exact terms, but some examples are how different cultures differ in emotion, or directness (in terms of yes or no). Basically it made me realize why dealing with certain people is so difficult sometimes. Also it made me realize that I’ve somehow adopted a model different from the majority of Americans, but that’s my own personal revelation to deal with.
WELL, I ended up babbling BUT, the point of this post was to say that I thought his analogy of culture as a mode of personal operations was very clever and very embodied cognition-like. Of course, any user experience job is concerned with this mode of operations and there’s big potential in using design to take advantage of it. Already I can see the concept budding into a wonderful art project (ha ha). It also happened to kind of correspond with a new article in Time about introverts’ ways of interacting with the world and how they’re not necessarily appreciated in American society. Very interesting… (I feel like someone understands me… introverts unite!).
I’m going to keep it in mind and add it to the list of things to consider in my worldview. Hopefully it will prove useful.