Category Archives: semiotics

The problem with “quiet quitting” and other buzzy management terms

The media wasn’t done with labor market lingo after search interest in Klotz’s term subsided, though. In 2022 Zaid Khan, a tech worker based in New York City, shared a TikTok about “quiet quitting,” which he described as a rejection of “the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.” That term helped spur countless stories and think pieces about declining engagement among U.S. workers. After “quiet quitting” came myriad similar terms, including “quiet hiring,” “quiet firing,”and “loud quitting.” Just a few weeks ago “bare minimum Monday” started making the rounds in a new round of media coverage.

Experts who study language and management say there’s a reason we gravitate toward such terms during unstable or confusing periods. But relying too much on jargon can also do a disservice to workers and managers grappling with complex labor force-related challenges. Workplace leaders who are serious about addressing issues like employee engagement would be best served by forgetting about viral buzzwords, some scholars say, and instead focusing on their underlying causes.

Corecore: The Aesthetic Quitting TikTok

Well, there is one growing movement tackling issues concerning technology, social media, and time management – it’s name is “Corecore”. Corecore is an artistic rebellion against the widespread culture of aesthetics on TikTok and beyond. Corecore creators collage together clips from popular culture and documentaries to inspire a particular feeling or highlight concern to the viewer. From gorpcore to ladcore to fairycore to whatever-is-next-core, our generation seems obsessed with aesthetic community categorization. A way of aligning yourself to a high-school clique (the jocks, the nerds, the drama kids) whilst maintaining a sense of unique individuality.

Unrelenting Fermenting – The rapid growth of funky foods (Sign Salad)

While the relationship between humans and fermentation is probably older than time itself, the fermented foods industry, not unlike the scobies used to make kombucha, has grown rapidly in recent years. Research shows a swelling market for products like kimchi, kefir, kombucha, natto and tempeh, as well as a growing appetite for the potential advancement in plant-based alternatives to meat that fermentation helps provide.

“Far Away” as a luxury signifier keeps evolving

The ideological framework of “far away” has been used as a luxury signifier over the last few decades as externalities around it have changed. Its meaning has implied a sense of “global access” and “entitlement”. The water category is a prime example to see how these signifiers have evolved over the decades and face new challenges today as the idea of “far away” creates new cultural dissonance. Changes began to take hold after the recession in 2008 as a shift to guilt and localism began to replace global as having a more potent social currency for luxury.

From the 1980s when sushi became a signifier of that global access. The history of sushi’s rise in the United States has a lot to do with making the supply chain meet that desire. How can I eat raw fish “far away” from its source? You can if you are willing to pay for it. It becomes the signifier of 1980s aspirational luxury.

Today that idea of global access and entitlement has more complicated problems. Growing inequality and the pandemic have made the idea of “far away” more complicated. We see luxury signifiers shifting to a more “escape pod” ideological framework. From space tourism to luxury bunkers and the metaverse as well.

A student in Analyzing Trends pointed to the Space Perspective package being sold, so you can be a passenger on a balloon-borne pressurized capsule scheduled to make its first test flights early next year. A $125,000 temporary escape pod.

Douglas Rushkoff wrote about tech billionaires who are buying up luxurious bunkers and hiring military security to survive a societal collapse they helped create. And there is an article in The Atlantic that points out how we are already living in the metaverse.

Dystopias often share a common feature: Amusement, in their skewed worlds, becomes a means of captivity rather than escape. George Orwell’s 1984 had the telescreen, a Ring-like device that surveilled and broadcast at the same time. The totalitarian regime of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 burned books, yet encouraged the watching of television. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World described the “feelies”—movies that, embracing the tactile as well as the visual, were “far more real than reality.” In 1992, Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi novel Snow Crash imagined a form of virtual entertainment so immersive that it would allow people, essentially, to live within it. He named it the metaverse.

Language And The Future

It has been an interesting week of consulting conversations and workshops around the application of language and culture in the innovation process. Mainly the center of the conversation around how semiotics reveals our participation in the linguistic systems that shape our world.

As more companies become excited by the possibilities of new generative AI tools, we must consider how such tools are rooted in existing easily accessible corpuses. No fault of their own. They need to start somewhere. An explicit language corpus is available.

However, the real ability to suss out implicit signifiers and analyze the relationships between explicit and implicit signifiers is the role of humans. Humans can better leverage generative AI tools as augmentation of classification and the patterning of evolving meaning in culture.

Innovation and design foresight must be mandated to make the relationship between the explicit and implicit, the knowns and unknowns, in the world clearer.

It all starts to get really interesting when we begin to better understand how to use these tools to move us beyond our baked-in and residual idea of how the world should work. And our laziness in letting the machine do the easy work for us and ending there.

Design affordances open up when we understand the ways language holds us back or tricks us into repeating remixes of old ideas. The future of work is embedded in the design affordances that constitute its meaning. The existing tension between corporate quitting and corporate surveillance begs for a better articulation of how language is working to undermine the system we hope to sustain.


Erich Fromm (1958): “Symbol Pushers,”

Want to change the world? Start by changing your words

Words wield power; they can significantly shape people, culture, and behavior.

Yet while we grow ever more aware that we live and work in a world of finite natural resources, the language we use in business isn’t helping us make impactful change. In fact, the words we use every day hold us back from creating a regenerative future, one that respects and restores the ecological systems we all depend on to survive.,%202022&leadId=639007&mkt_tok=NjEwLUxFRS04NzIAAAGIzowgc0yy3T2HmAHkS4YkYW6X3Txm8qkOMj1c8SzNiIEefkDB2QkYJkMLia_c1xjd9reGSUs0JpS2SyzHHM0t9Ju_szrmWH4iydk-Kig