Defining Yourself

Today Seth Godin discusses the problem with new words, specifically identifiers for jobs, devices and ideas that didn’t exist a few years ago and don’t easily explain themselves.

The iPhone isn’t really a phone, it’s actually not a very good phone at all, but calling it a phone made it easy for people to put it into a category. The category was expanded by the behavior of the iPhone, and now “phone” means something far more than it used to. “What do you mean your phone can’t tell me how far away the diner is?”  Of course, this was an absurd thing to expect from a phone not very long ago.

Mario Batali calls himself a chef, but of course he rarely if ever sets up in a kitchen and cooks meals for strangers at minimum wage. But chef is a lot easier and simpler than a whole bunch of hyphens.

My job title, assigned by the overly-large school district, is pretty lousy, not to mention vague: Instructional Technology Specialist1. It doesn’t come close to explaining what I do.

Better would be “helping educators improve their professional practice through the use of new tools for communication and collaboration (and other duties as assigned)” but that doesn’t fit well into the small “job title” box on a form or into the very brief conversational space following the inquiry “what do you do?”.

In the past few years, when asked to provide a job title/position for conferences and such I’ve been using “Educator. Blogger. Learner. Geek”. Not perfect but it’s a step towards defining myself outside of the small group of people I work with2.

How do you define yourself to the outside world?