Cultural Differences

Branding & Emotional Design: The Culture of Sneakers

How do we spend our money? Well, the first cut goes to survival: essential goods and services that are absolutely necessary to our survival. Food, housing, medical care are all part of the basic necessities of life. Some, of course, are more necessary than others (we might postpone going to a dentist…but not for long), but there’s a core of stuff that we need to live. The next tier up from survival is comfort. This is a very large tier—what’s comfort to some is a necessity to others and visa versa. People use their income to increase their general comfort level. This might mean a large house, more comfortable beds, larger selection of clothing. But generally, when we talk of comfort, we don’t include jet setting to Paris for a nice date out on the town. Comfort is about everyday life needs, but more comfortable. The top tier of our income is the disposable income and it is spent on luxury—the money we have left over from dealing with our needs and comforts; the money we can chose to spend in an extravagant and even wasteful manner. When economists make predictions about the average size of the available disposable income,…

Chinese companies ‘rent’ white foreigners

Farrar, L. (2010). “Chinese companies ‘rent’ white foreigners.” CNN. Retrieved on 3 October, 2010: http://www.cnn.com/2010/BUSINESS/06/29/china.rent.white.people/index.html In China, white people can be rented. Chinese companies are willing to pay high prices for fair-faced foreigners to join them as fake employees or business partners. To have a few foreigners hanging around means a company has prestige, money and the increasingly crucial connections — real or not — to businesses abroad. The requirements for these jobs are simple: Be white. Do not speak any Chinese, or really speak at all, unless asked. Pretend like you just got off of an airplane yesterday. Those who go for such gigs tend to be unemployed actors or models, part-time English teachers or other expats looking to earn a few extra bucks. Often they are jobs at a second- or third-tier city, where the presence of pale-faced foreigners is needed to impress local officials, secure a contract or simply to fulfill a claim of being international. Occasionally, these jobs can go awry. A company can hire a white foreigner, swindle millions of yuan out of their clients , and after police shows up tell that the white guy was the one really in charge, White women are…

Using Computers to Teach Children Without Teachers

Johnathan, F . (2010). “Using computers to teach children with no teachers” BBC News. Retrieved on 21 July, 2010: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10663353?print=true Summary of the article: The article summarizes studies conducted by Prof Mitra on the learning curve of children using computers for education with teachers. Results of the study prove that the teaching methods employed have been quite successful based on the fact that: Children who are not exposed to computers are highly motivated to teach themselves skills they want to learn Children have had a steep learning curve in picking up complex tasks with minimum supervision Learning by discussion and in groups ensures that content is retained and not skimmed through by children. Motivation levels of students are kept high with a grandmother figure in the picture. The best results of the study have been combined to create Self Learning Environments where children in groups of 4 share a computer to assimilate information. Virtually present volunteer grandmothers keep the student motivated and support the learning process. On Environment: The need for self-organized learning essentially arises in developing nations and the ones who do not have access to education. Children living in such conditions have a natural survival instinct, which keeps…

Antisocial Networking?

Stout, H. (2010). “Antisocial Networking?” New York Times Online. Retrieved on 3 October, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/fashion/02BEST.html The main topic of this article is that technology may be changing the very nature of kid’s friendships. Children used to actually talk to their friends. But now, even chatting on cellphones or via e-mail is becoming rare. Today’s teenagers and preteens, prefer to make friends and communicate using cellphone texts and instant messages, or through the very public forum of Facebook walls and MySpace bulletins. People now are more likely to use their cellphones to text friends than to call them. The article shows two opposite points of view on the topic. The author believes the quality of human interactions is becoming worse without the intimacy and emotional component of regular face-to-face communications (hence the title of this article). The ease of electronic communication may be making teens less interested in face-to-face communication with their friends, but close childhood friendships help kids build trust in people outside their families, develop empathy, understand emotional nuances and read social cues like facial expressions and body language, and consequently help lay the groundwork for healthy adult relationships. On the other hand, online social networking allows children to become…

Be the Customer

By our very nature, humans are an “us versus them” kind of mammal. We are quick to judge and categorize: “he’s our kind’a people” or “she’s management.” We adapt and root for our favorite sports teams, sometimes even resorting to violence to “defend our guys.” We peg an art department against the engineers; we side with nurses over doctors; we fight with democrats against republicans; we wave our flags in a spirit of nationalism. And it doesn’t matter if we all work for the same company, heal the same patients, want the same basic rights, or live on a very small planet—we tend to take sides. So it’s no surprise that when product designers develop products the feeling of “us against the users” creeps up into the process. To protect the design process from these “us versus them” impulses, we can create a well-realized user personas based on the the audience taxonomy developed during the conceptual design stage of product design. For each major category in the audience taxonomy, a sample fictional user is created which embodies all of the traits in that audience category: age, profession, socio-economic background, culture and sub-culture, interests and dislikes, family status, education level, etc.…

We’re Only as Happy as Our Unhappiest Child

Recession is an interesting prism by which to examine our modern society. The scarcity of jobs a century ago, led to an abolishment of child labor, an extension of the educational system to accommodate these out-of-work children, and a development of new laws to serve them. Most importantly, dire economic conditions were the direct cause behind the “discovery” of a new stage of life: adolescence. The current economic hardship is particularly difficult on the 18 to 30 demographic. These “adults” are struggling to find jobs, life-long relationships, educational opportunities, and self-fulfillment. The term failure to launch is coined to describe the restlessness and ambiguity felt by this population. Dr. Jeffrey J. Arnett describes this phase of life as emerging adulthood: “Instead of entering marriage and parenthood in their very early twenties, most people now postpone these transitions until at least their late twenties, and spend their late teens through their mid-twenties in self-focused exploration as they try out different possibilities in love and work. Essentially, a new developmental stage has been created between adolescence and young adulthood.” [http://www.jeffreyarnett.com] Dr. Arnett discusses the internal traits that define his newly-proposed phase of life: identity exploration instability in work, relationships, living circumstances self-focus…

Space-Time Changes in Cultural Variables

Some designs are timeless, some are dated. TV shows, movies, books, and even Web sites change as both technologies driving the medium change and as our sensibilities as consumers alter in time. Cultural shock is easy to spot as we move globe trot, searching for new experiences. But cultural shock is just as easy to get at home, watching old commercials and movies. As product designers, we want to find those attributes that will stand the course of time and space. The need for innovation and push to grab the most number of users makes evolutionary design less and less appealing. But it’s the “hammers” of the world that retain their value long after the newest fads have come and gone. A product that is build as an answer to a specific, human need, stands the test of space-time utility.