Keep Your Head in the Clouds
People like to typecast. Canadians are no exception. Pretend as we may that we have embraced the mantra of political correctness, the truth of the matter is that we all have biases, we all subconsciously believe in certain stereotypes, and we all love to place labels on people.
Black or White. Rich or poor. Tall or short.
You have to admit that it does help simplify life. So long as we believe that people fit nicely into the labelled boxes we place them in everything appears to work “as it should”. Unfortunately, reality is not so simple.
People wear many hats and are full of contradictions. This is not new. People have always been complex beasts. But in today’s globalized world full of personal choices and free from the fear of discrimination, our idiosyncrasies are no longer hiding away inside the labelled boxes we used to shut them in. They are now in full view, popping up in unexpected places and demanding attention. While this may be a beautiful thing, it does raise a question: How should we categorize people in an age of diversity?
We have tried to build bridges between boxes through judicious use of hyphens, but this only allows one or two more labels to be pasted on without any sense of their respective importance.
Chinese-Canadian. Ms. Smith-Jones. Single-dad.
In today’s diverse society there is a need for a new classification system. Enter tag clouds.
If you’re reading this you should know what I’m talking about – that bunch of words grouped together of varying sizes on the right side of this blog. There’s just something so beautifully simple about it.
Immediate…the more popular the tag word, the more it stands out.
Flexible…as tags and popularity change so does the cloud.
Inclusive…even the occasional tag can get noticed if you look close enough.
Tag clouds provide a powerful metaphor to help think about the people you meet, and even about yourself. Friends and colleagues with the same dark complexions, but different accents and cultural traditions. Conflicting values of wanting cheap gas, but a stable climate. Changing public facades in different social circumstances. These are the hallmarks of a diverse society, and we need to build a mental map to guide us through it comfortably.
So next time you’re sizing someone up, don’t put them in the same old box – try to see their cloud.
(To create your own personal tag cloud go to Wordle.net)