Ethnographic & User Data

Globalization and Cultural Errors

Jew's Ear Juice

There was a time when a product designed for a specific geopolitical region would have stayed there for the duration of its existence. With few exceptions, products didn’t travel the world to areas where they would be considered a fopaux. These products were cultural curiosities displayed by adventurous tourists for the pleasure and laughs of their friends and family. But things change. Product design and usability protocols now have to include culture experts. What works well in one place, for one group of users, at a particular time won’t do so under other circumstances.

Before you cast that vote on the ballot this November…

Article: McGrath, M (2008). “Political views ‘all in the mind’.” BBC World Service. Visited on 18 September 2008 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7623256.stm Conceptual Design —  to investigate the level of connection between a person’s political views and her/his physiological makeup, e.g. that person’s sensitivity to fear or threat. Interaction Design — small study targeting potential voters, exposing them to various sights & sounds that may provoke fear, and checking their responses against their political views on multiple issues.  Subjects were first asked a series of questions regarding their political views on multiple issues (like gun control, capital punishment, abortion, etc.).  Then, using electrical conductance to measure subjects’ skin & blink responses, they were exposed to a series of intentionally frightful images & sounds.  This is used to determine their levels of sensitivity to fears & threats Interface Design — creepy images like a scared man with a tarantula on his face, and an open wound with maggots in it, and loud, unexpectedly intrusive noises Summary — while this study is geographically limited (conducted only in Nebraska) and statistically insignificant (n=46), it does offer an interesting hypothesis that people who are highly sensitive to threats & fears tend to support a right-wing agenda. From…

Understanding Complex Visual Information…

US Military PowerPoint slide designed to explain Afghanistan strategy.

…or not comprehending it, as the case may be. A few years ago, I wrote a paper about people’s ability to comprehend complex visual information such as graphs, charts, diagrams, maps, and so on. Intuitively, we are culturally-trained to believe that it’s much easier to extract information from a picture than from text. But upon testing this belief (p-prim, for those in the know), I found that contrary to the notion “a picture is worth a thousand words,” it’s much more difficult to get data from an illustration than from a story. While emotional impact might be larger with a picture, it’s not true for comprehension. You can read the results of my study at http://www.pipsqueak.com/pages/papers.html “Visual Symbolic Processing in Modern Times” paper presented at AACE ED-MEDIA Conference in 2008. Since then, I’ve collected more data, and the results are similarly aligned: problem-solving requiring higher level visual symbolic processing skills is difficult and results in communication failures. A secondary, and surprising, finding was a gender discrepancy in performance outcome testing of visual symbolic processing skills. Higher level and lower level visual symbolic processing are defined in the paper. And anyone interested in testing their visual processing skills are welcome to…

Teaching Boys and Girls Separately

Article: Weil, E. (2008). “Teaching Boys and Girls Separately.” NY Times. Visited on 2 March 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/magazine/02sex3-t.html The article explores the potential impact that differences in emotional and/or cognitive development in boys and girls have on a child’s ability to learn.  In order to address these inherent difference and subsequently the ‘chronic achievement gap between richer and poorer students and between white and minority students’, one school of thought promotes gender segregation in schools. The most outspoken proponent of this solution and the main focus of this article is Leonard Sax, a former family physician with a Ph.D. in psychology. According to Sax, the basis for the need to separate boys and girls is biological as opposed to social. He sites psychological as well as neurobiological studies which utilize brain scan technology. The need to segregate boys and girls in the classroom is rooted, according to Sax, in biological differences such as: •     boys do not hear nor smell as well as girls •     boys and girls respond differently to different shades of light •     boys are more apt than girls to see action •     boys are not as capable as girls of recognizing subtleties in…