“ What do you mean when you say that?”

Last year, I set out trying to define a set of key words that I found myself commonly using to describe my work and my interests. It was an exercise in clarity, and a practice of recognizing my own perspectives on seemingly universal concepts. As tempting as it is to Google the definitions, that defeats the point.

With the full understanding that the definitions below are skewed, limited, and contextually-dependent, I offer an updated set of definitions of what some of these terms mean to me.

civics: pertaining to community decision-making processes (formal and informal); the manner in which the public engages with formal governance structures, especially with regard to addressing community problems

design (v): to plan, sketch, draw, frame, or map a concept or idea into a concrete visual artifact

technology: any tool or service designed to enhance or advance society, often for efficiency or improvement of outcomes

digital: that which is virtual; a virtual format

learning (n): the process of building skills, knowledge, and understanding; the process of discovering ideas through active cognitive engagement

media: modes/products of communication that convey information, often through text, images, audio, or other forms that stimulate the senses

education: the systemic process of instruction and assessment of selected skills deemed necessary for humans to be productive in modern society

youth: human beings aged 0–24 (often used to refer to human beings aged 6–18)

activism: the process of advocating for one’s beliefs, often for collective causes including rights, justice, equity, and social change; the process of pushing to change the way things are


So what’s the point of offering these definitions?

  1. Collaborating with others and using shared language can be tricky when parties hold different ideas of the same terms. Creating definitions individually helps us gauge our own understandings of concepts, and collective definitions can be essential for setting foundational frameworks from which to build with one another.
  2. The practice of defining terms can provide insight into what we prioritize and believe to be core components of the term.
  3. By spelling out what we mean, we are nudged to check our assumptions, uncover the implicit, and make language more accessible.

I challenge you to provide definitions of the terms above, but I also challenge you to identify and define the key terms in your world of interests and passions, too.