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Hi, I'm Pearl, and I like to think about how we all use language to make and share meaning.

About Me

I'm a content strategist and linguistic anthropologist working in user experience.

 

Where I’m
Coming From

 

As a content strategist, I’ve worked for over 10 years in higher education administration at a small community college. At Hostos Community College, I work in the Office of Administration and Finance where I write and edit a variety of content that needs to address the expectations, preconceptions, and beliefs various audiences bring to their interactions with college operations. Frequently tasked with writing about programs, activities, and business processes I’m unfamiliar with, I’ve learned to ask questions that will elicit important details, use my skills as a linguistic anthropologist to gather and understand what’s not said, and think strategically and critically about how that information is ultimately presented.

As a linguistic anthropologist—someone who studies how language is used in a social context—I'm most interested in the intersection of identities: gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, and nationality (at “home” and “abroad”) particularly. This has led me to think about the role of food and cuisine in identity, as demonstrated by my scholarly work, and let me dip a toe in speech and identity in video gaming communities.

Where I’m Going

 

I’m looking for opportunities to use my knowledge about the ways we all use language to make and share meaning.

I’m particularly interested in usability. After years of observing when I and others appear to get “stuck,” I find myself wondering how to design systems and software to help people with productivity. Recognizing that everyone has existing personal workflows, I want to minimize the need to make significant changes to those individual practices.

Considering practices and circumstances that might get in the way of college enrollment and retention, I’ve used my current role in higher education to advocate for colleagues to think about new ways we can design messaging, communication methods, information, and processes that are made for our student population, rather than given to them. Finding a way to reduce the number of steps to complete crucial activities benefits our students as much as it benefits the college, with potential for higher enrollment, retention, and graduation.

Behind this is my desire to ensure that diversity and inclusion plays a role in content and user design. Through content strategy, I see valuable space for listening to, advocating for, elevating, and amplifying the voices of people who are not always heard. With my background in linguistic anthropology, I bring with me knowledge about the various, shifting ways language ties into this.

What Else?

 

In my free time, I enjoy rock climbing, knitting, photography, and have recently started hobbyist lockpicking.

I also enjoy remaining active in the linguistics community from beyond academia. In January 2015, I successfully nominated the Winner of the “Most Likely to Succeed” Category at the 25th ADS Word of the Year Proceedings. That word, “salty,” was subsequently discussed by Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer following the 2014 WOTY vote.

“At the Word of the Year vote, ‘salty’ was nominated by Pearl Shavzin, an adjunct lecturer in anthropology at Hunter College, who has been tracking its usage in recent years. She noticed its rise in the fighting game community (FGC), a racially diverse subculture of videogaming.”

Source: Zimmer, Ben. “A ‘Salty’ Word With a Promising Future,” The Wall Street Journal. 16 January 2015. https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-salty-word-with-a-promising-future-1421427784

More on the American Dialect Society’s Words of the Year can be found on the ADS website.