Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Bending the Curve" Under Attack

Constrained curmudgeons among us have risen up in opposition to the phrase "bending the curve." William Safire writes in the New York Times that

Came the current recession, the graphic-metaphor crowd stopped worrying about a cost line bending inexorably upward and directed its attention to the need to get the upward-bending unemployment figures bending down. Thus, the meaning of the phrase bending the curve is switching from “bend that awful, upward-curving line down before we can’t afford an aspirin” to “bend that line up down quick, before we all head for the bread line!” This leads to metaphoric confusion. It’s what happens when you fall in love with full-color graphs to explain to the screen-entranced set what’s happening and scorn plain words.

Next we turn to Benjamin Zimmer at Language Log (which is a fascinating place to wander through, especially when one wants to experience the same blank-eyed sensation that too many in our communities have when they ogle our data.) Zimmer says,

The idea that the rise of something undesirable can be altered by "bending the curve" has been around for quite a while.

He cites a number of examples, suggesting that the phrase is not of such recent origin (or due to such nefarious pandering to policy-justification-through-optics-rather-than-words) as denounced by Safire. However, Zimmer's readers shudder at the use of the phrase.

I wonder how they would feel about the casual way I bat about the term "trend-bending"?


Post a Comment