Tag Archive for cultural differences

Love of Reading

Monument to Jules Verne

I assume that people who read my newsletters love to read as much as I do. Reading is the best form of escapism. It’s a way of stepping into another life, another world. It can be completely immersive and totally consuming. You can read to match your internal moods or to shift them into a completely different direction. Reading is awesome fun. I’m sorry for those who don’t know this. That said, even some great stories won’t be great for every reader or even be appropriate for a particular time in their lives (or circumstances in the world). I have been reading a lot lately, catching up on the giant pile of books that I acquired during the height of the pandemic but never got around to actually consuming. My pile is still very high, but I did discover some gems and also some books that are simply not for me (or not for me right now). I am getting better at putting those books away partially read — that’s a new skill that I just recently learned. Prior, I felt that I had to read to the last page (appendixes included) once I’ve started a book. Now, I am…

Cultural Differences in Child-rearing or Abuse?

baby and cobra

I’ve written about cultural differences in child-rearing that from our, Western, point of view seem like child abuse. There’s the dunking of babies into freezing ice waters in Russia; and spinning children to improve something; and now I just saw these videos from India. and There is no question that if these were video-documented instances of child abuse in New York or Los Angeles, authorities would be knocking down doors to rescue these children. But in other cultures, is it different? Do we bear responsibility there?

Language, Culture, and Communication

Where we come from — our background culture: our country of origin and language, our heritage and religion (or lack thereof), our family, our education, our friends, and where we live — has an enormous impact on our ability to communicate. What’s more, when people from different cultural backgrounds try to interact with each other, these differences can cause catastrophic failures. Direct versus Indirect Communication Styles Consider the following set of remarks about doing homework: Do your homework! Can you start doing your homework? Would you mind starting your homework now? Let’s clean the table so you can start your homework. Do you need help with homework? It’s getting late, do you have a lot of homework? Didn’t you say you have a lot of homework? Johnny’s mom said that he has a lot of homework today… Do you have everything ready for school tomorrow? Look how late it is — it’s almost time for bed. You have school tomorrow. Each of the statements above represents a progressively less direct command to do homework. In my family, I usually pick number 2 to communicate my desires for finished homework to my sons (although number 1 is perfectly acceptable, to me).…

Some Examples of Design Failure in Physical Space

square wheeled bike

Affordance is a feature of an object or an environment that suggests a set of possible actions/interaction that a user of such object/environment can perform with it. For example, if an object has a handle (e.g. tea cup), a user can reasonably expect to pick it up via that handle without spilling the contents of the cup. On the other hand, no one has an expectation of the wheels of the bike below turning… We all recognize the bike above as an art piece. As a connoisseur of design failure, I regularly get emails with collections of failed design objects or situations. When I get enough to share, I usually post them on this blog. Bathrooms design fails seem to be a favorite, but there are others… Enjoy! (or my personal experience in The Hague) Some problems arise when the design specks change over time, like the size of a toilet paper roll versus the toilet paper holder… Some problems arise when the maps are out of date… or Some are due to timing and lack of built-in error handling… But some design solutions are there to fix the problem of cultural differences:

Cultural Barriers to Success

Tim Buton Exhibition at La Cinémathèque in Paris

Man-made Disasters in a Wake of Tsunami This month, The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission issued its final report on the disaster: It was man-made! Here’s a quote from the report: What must be admitted — very painfully — is that this was a disaster “Made in Japan.” Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program”; our groupism; and our insularity. Had other Japanese been in the shoes of those who bear responsibility for this accident, the result may well have been the same. The last sentence is particular insightful — the blame was not rested on the shoulders of a particular individual, as tempting as that might be, or even on the shoulders of some manager. The fault was places on the cultural context in which the incident played out. Museums in Paris We just got back from seeing a Tim Burton exhibit at the La Cinémathèque, in Paris. The content of the exhibit, as one could imagine, is quite wonderful. But there were many, many human failures in making the visit an enjoyable experience. And yes,…

Cultural and Subject Matter Knowledge

What is that?! Is that what I think it is? These toys were part of a window display in a little store in the center of Rome. I don’t believe a lot of kids play with Nazi toy soldiers…in Italy, today. But if WWII turned out differently, these might have been the coveted toys, not just for a limited set of adult collectors, but for average, everyday kids…who happened to be living in an alternate reality. So this brings me to the main point of this post: products have to have cultural relevance, and this requires designers to have a good grasp on social background knowledge and on the subject matter within which they are working. Consider this little street sign in Rome as another example of cultural and subject matter relevancy: If you click on the image, you can get a larger version—yes, it is a crucifix with Jesus icon. Here in San Francisco, this sign wouldn’t work. But in Rome, it makes perfect sense. It’s culturally relevant and conveys information to the local population. Both of these examples show that it’s not just cultural knowledge that’s important. Without knowing the meaning of a crucifix or being able to…