I’m going to be honest, this post is inspired by the latest redesign on a social media site I use—LinkedIn. Now LinkedIn is not exactly the sexiest, coolest social media site on the net. But since I do a lot of job searching and networking, LinkedIn is a site that I use a lot. And I kinda hate the new format.
I hate on redesigns a lot for a couple of reasons: number one, I’m a curmudgeon that dislikes change—I mean, what’s wrong with the old format? Number two, it takes time and effort to understand the new design and where everything is located—time that the redesign promised to save users by supposedly making the site “more intuitive.” More intuitive? Last time I checked the human brain didn’t come with a user interface and notifications so how can a website claim that it’s being more intuitive—we’re not instinctually primed for computer usage (unless we’re actually living in the Matrix and being controlled by The Machine!)
And number three (again, this is my personal belief), I think redesigns are often motivated by factors other than user/customers’ desires. Redesigns are a way for a website, company, organization, etc. to reflect their changing values and focus; it’s also a way to stay competitive in a world flooded with a hundreds of thousands of web pages all competing for people’s attention. Stay relevant or die in other words, and a redesign is an attempt to keep users engaged. That’s not a bad thing, but don’t frame the change as this fun, cool thing that users demanded. We don’t demand anything but a quicker loading time for the page.
Newer is not always better. Change is not always great. Change does not equal progress. And “progress” is not always good.
Now you might be thinking, ‘what a Luddite, get with the times. Adapt or die.’
And maybe you’re right, adapting to change is part of life, and especially in the relentless pace of change we face today, being adaptable is essential to survival. But what I’m trying to get at is for you to be more conscious and critical of the changes that happen. Part of being a good researcher is to question all the information you come across. Evaluating your discoveries from a detached (and skeptical) perspective makes you think more deeply about what you found. Asking questions and challenging assumptions is what leads to new revelations. Don’t accept the given and don’t accept what you see at face value, there’s another angle from which to evaluate that information.
If you’re in the humanities you might be familiar with different theoretical perspectives to analyze a subject (like Marxist theory, Feminist theory, Postmodernism, Social Constructivist theory, Critical Race theory, Psychoanalytic theory, and on and on), which are useful in critically evaluating information. I encourage you to use some of those theoretical frameworks to think about the information you find, and to use more than one theory—which deepens your analysis by giving you multiple viewpoints in which to understand information. If you aren’t familiar with some of those theories do a little research on them—I guarantee that they will enrich your research process.
Question everything. Especially change. As a historian, I’m kind of obsessed with change. A change or shift will spark questions about why that change occurred, why the change happened at that particular time, what fueled the changes, and the consequences of that change. When you’re investigating something, those questions will keep you thinking and force you to confront something you might ordinarily take as a given.