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As I organize my job opportunities and meta-opportunities I've inevitably found myself writing a large number of variations on the same basic summary sentences about my professional interests and experience. The most succinct explanation of my "field" I've been using is "social information systems", which I like for its deliberate ambiguity as to whether I mean information systems with social components or systems for explicitly social information, since in general I'm more interested the more data and the more people involved, and most interested when there's an apparently unmanageable overload of both.  

The problem with a compact and expressive phrase like "social information systems" is that if you use it confidently enough, anybody who doesn't already think they know what it means will assume it means something specific that they don't like (otherwise obviously they would know about it already). You have to be able to put everything in some context you can count on your audience knowing, knowing they know, and knowing they like. So I end up talking a lot about "information technology", on the theory that anybody I'm likely to work for or with knows what "information" and "technology" are and thinks they're important. The "technology" part conveys that I'm not looking for a job as a data proofreader, and the "information" part helpfully suggests that I don't know anything about metallurgy or processor cooling.  

The problem with "information technology" as a phrase, however, is that it's so similar to "Information Technology", which has come to refer exclusively to that subset of information-related technology that can be hoarded by gnomes and used to build dank, gloomy catacombs where information nobody wants goes to molder and hide from the sad people who are cursed to need it. This is not exactly my niche. And worse, perhaps, information technology is not a goal, it's at best a genre of tool, and if I think goals are more important than tools, I should have some better way of talking about what I think the information technology is for, or should be. Plus I've been reading a lot of bravely humane Theodore Sturgeon stories, and I think he'd say that displacing the oppressively dreary IT, as an acronym, is worth a quest in itself.  

The main thing I'm after, always, is understanding. And since understanding is usually a process, not a point, it's more accurate to say that my preoccupation is understanding-seeking. This is probably not a usable resumé phrase in the current software business, as it sounds dubiously spiritual, and this is an audience spooked by Faith-Based Initiatives and Creationism into taking "spiritual" as the opposite of "rational". And "rational" is the same as "logical", and obviously software is quintessentially logical.  

But then, churches aren't built by devoutly instantiated reverence, they're nailed together with hammers like anything else. The difference between good software (when it ever so occasionally exists) and bad software (the rest of the time) is not usually in execution, but in inspiration. Design, as I use the word "design", is at most 20% rational (and "usability" is rarely more than 20% of that). The rest of it is spiritual, or moral, or conceptual, or whatever you want to call the part of the process in which you decide what kind of story you are helping people tell themselves about themselves, or tell others about how we share the burdens and potential of our nature.  

So I'd love to see a world where I could write in my resumé that I do US, and have people know that Understanding-Seeking is a real and definitively pragmatic discipline. I'd love to not have to explain that nudging widgets into line is a part of the software creation process I sometimes do personally in the same way that an architect who really cares about a building will still be there the day they're putting the sinks into the bathrooms, trying to think of an even better spot on the wall to hang the hand-dryers: not because that's what "architecture" means, but because if the architecture was done well, by the time you're doing the bathrooms the hand-dryers are the largest problem that wasn't already solved long ago, and it's the architect's job to keep working on the largest remaining problems until the building is done. I'd love to not have to explain to anybody that "fixing our usability" is a way of saying "we're too committed to our big mistakes to dream of anything better than doing our bad job a fraction more efficiently". I'd love to feel like I can say to a VP of Engineering that design is a moral act, and know that I'm just reiterating something they already know, that of course engineering is the art of our holding actions against entropy, and US is why it's worth so much elaborate effort to buy ourselves these moments of time in which to live.
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