How designers might build shared meaning in the post truth era

It’s the Oxford Dictionaries Word of The Year. We live in times where data can be cherry picked and shaped like plasticine, to whatever version of reality confirms an ideology. Facts no longer influence public opinion as much as emotions and opinions too. This has implications for information architects and UX researchers, who:

  • define information hierarchies
  • present content – which is factual or otherwise- in a way which makes it discoverable as well as findable

To do this with integrity, audience’s mental models of information need to be understood. One needs to be totally ready to have their assumptions challenged for this to happen.

Designers may then be ready to build a shared vision of meaning. But think about how political building common language is.

The phrase ‘Brexit means brexit; springs to mind. This could mean:

  • we’re leaving the EU
  • We’re kind of leaving it
  • We don’t know what Brexit means

With experience, designers get used to being surrounded by ambiguous opinions. They become better at differentiating these from facts. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we pass this on to the next generation of designers who will shape the data, facts and opinions which people consume and share.

One consolation of living in the post -truth era is that facts don’t disappear. If resources aren’t being focused on supporting stronger discoverable content , consider the risks and make this a personal exercise. Then ask yourself how long this approach can be sustainable for. Reality forces people to adapt.

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