The New Republic ran a delightful little piece last month about the buzzword “disruptive.” Author Judith Shevitz argues that the inventor of the term “disruptive innovation,” which originally applied to the tech industry, has let it spin out of control, so that it’s being applied to areas like education and public health. This trend, she says, is “a category error” because “[n]ot all civil services need to be hyper-efficient and bargain-basement and in a state of permanent revolution, especially when the private entities tasked with disrupting government operate largely outside public view.”
I think her point is well taken, but I particularly enjoyed the story art, which mocks vacuous buzzwords generally. This got me thinking about some of the buzzwords I’m guilty of using. Of course, first and foremost is the title of this blog, as “data-driven” is ill-defined jargon. I decided to plot a few terms using Google’s ngram, which charts how often terms appear in Google Books over time (click the hypertext to see a clear version of the chart below).
There’s no real conclusion to draw here, but I thought the information was interesting regardless. Not suprisely, terms like data-driven, public-private, and civic engagement have increased dramatically in use in recent years. Intriguingly, “urban renewal” has been surpassed in use by “e-government.”