Abdelnour Nocera & Camara (2010). Reflecting on the usability of research on culture in designing interaction.

Abdelnour Nocera, J. L., & Camara, S. (2010). Reflecting on the usability of research on culture in designing interaction. In F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec, & C. Ess (Eds.), Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication (pp. 150-162). Presented at the Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology, Vancouver: Murdoch University.

“… cultural models being applied to interface development and research. … Drawing on different social science theories, the authors discuss top-down and bottom-up perspectives in the study of users’ cultural differences and discuss the extent to which each provides usable design knowledge. … a sociotechnical approach …” (p 150)

“However, the contribution to design practice of these studies based on national culture models (Hofstede, 1991) remains controversial as these have not always proven effective in predicting user behaviour or obtaining culturally relevant requirements.” (p 150)

“… argues for a cultural assessment of the different levels of interface development and research, from the most technical to the most social.” (p 151)

“… the ‘onion’ model of Trompenaars (1993) in which core assumptions about life belong to the centre, followed by norms and values in the middle layers and the perceptible outer layer, which represents symbols, rituals and artefacts.” (p 151)

“… Hoft emphasises the association of culture with nations, reducing cultural problems to a matter of national differences rather than conflicts at other organisational or group levels.” (p 151)

“Beyond a cognitive-centred conception of the user, these perspectives do no address the sociocultural dynamics that help users define how useful interactive systems are from a situated perspective. … social constructionist paradigm … how people construe and build their own social world and is in stark contrast with the culture as ‘programming of the mind’.” (p 151)

[Clear, nuanced and concise definition of culture in context of technology is given. (p 152)]

“… the role of interactive systems as culturally mediated and mediating entities …” (p 152)

“For instance, in a study about Group Support System the hypothesis of the cultural behaviour of a Singaporean user group and a US group predicted from Hofstede’s model was not fully supported (El-Shinawy & Vinze, 1997); research about the introduction of automatic teller machines in India also found that Hofstede’s dimensions were not sufficient to make sense of the all the cultural factors shaping the process of technology adoption in that country (De Angeli, Athavankar, Joshi, Coventry, & Johson, 2004).” (p 152-153)

“In contrast to use of national culture models, semiotic studies in HCI (Bourges-Waldegg & Scrivener, 2000; Onibere, Morgan, Busang, & Mpoleleng, 2001) locate the problem of cultural ‘fit’ to a matter of meaning-matching …” (p 153)

“Another alternative to Hofstede’s model adopted in HCI is Activity Theory (Leont’ev, 1978). This theory does not include pre-established cultural dimensions that could obscure other more relevant cultural factors.” (p 153)

“This defines the relation between designers and users as an intercultural one at different levels, not necessarily or only national.” (p 154)

“What is so attractive to the HCI authors using the term ‘culture’ based on national models (e.g. Hofstede) and social psychology theories (e.g. Rotter’s locus of control) is the possibility to predict and control user behaviour, an expectation grounded in a positivist scientific paradigm.” (p 154)

[A case study is given of an interactive education tool used in Kenya. (p 155-158)]

Selected references

  • Hall, E. T. (1977). Beyond culture. New York: Anchor Books.
  • Smith, A., Dunckley, L., French, T., Minocha, S., & Chang, Y. (2004). A process model for developing usable cross-cultural websites. Interacting with Computers, 16(1), 63-91. doi:10.1016/j.intcom.2003.11.005
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