Contributing to the Greater Conversation

She had asked me, “What are you adding to the conversation?” At the time, I had no idea what my professor was talking about. What conversation? I was writing a research paper. It was in introducing this concept of conversation to me that she changed my outlook on how I write, design, and speak. I want to ask you the same question: What are you adding to the conversation?

But the question remains, what conversation? Since the beginning of time, a conversation has been happening. Through the course of history, many conversation have branched off leading lives of their own. Some of these archaic conversations remain today. Conversations of ethics, function, beauty, and so forth.

In your field of interest, there is a greater conversation happening. The conversation of skeuomorphism versus flat design wasn’t merely about that, it called into question the relationship of form and function, and the limits of our semiotic understanding. It’s the little conversations in design which contribute to the larger ones.

What are we adding to the conversation when we continuously regurgitate definitions of design, and even worse, when we continuously ask leaders in our field how they define design? Why are we asking what it means to them? Why are we asking how they use it? Are such loaded questions necessary? Has this, in contemporary terms, yielded any prolific answers or contributed anything new to the greater conversation?

In addressing and acknowledging the conversation at large, you’re forced to question what has already been said, whether or not you truly understand it, and what might your stance be.

You must learn to ask yourself: What are you adding to the conversation? What is your stance? What exactly are you adding? Is it new? Can you make it new? Or is it worth restating? Can it be improved upon and is it worth doing so?

All of this leads into the fact that the conversation isn’t limited to what is verbally expressed. The work you are creating right now is a part of the conversation. It’s important to realize that there is always a greater conversation happening, and if you aren’t taking the time to recognize it, then you likely aren’t contributing anything of value.

What is your work saying? What stance is it taking? What is it contributing? What are you contributing?