The Facebook research furore burst just after my post last week on the connotations of ‘people’, ‘customers’ and ‘users’. Benjamin Ellis’s thoughtfully furious post is a powerful account of the affair, including this comment on the use of ‘users’:
Perhaps we need to stop using the term ‘users‘ just as psychologists stopped using the word ‘subjects‘. Language drives attitudes, and viewing people as ‘big data’ leads to a mindset that is dangerously abstracted from the human consequences of action, or inaction.
The key phrase there is that ‘language drives attitudes’. It’s the reason why this matters – and the reason why an apparently esoteric debate about language has some very real consequences.