Cross-Cultural User Experience Design Seminar at Tampere

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Today I attended to Cross-cultural design seminar at Tampere University of Technology. The seminar content summary went pretty much like this:

  • What is cross-cultural design? (Liinu Helkiö & Tanja Walsh),
  • Understanding cultural differences in Human-computer interaction (Professor Gilbert Cockton),
  • What major challenges there can be found (Minna Kamppuri, who gave us an interesting presentation about how this applies to Tanzania) and
  • How to facilitate cultural sensitivity in user research (Jung Joo Lee).

It was nice to be able to visit this because in my line of work I rarely get to do, speak about, or even see, real research about design. Often it feels business and research are like two different nations not just talking to each others. And it shouldn’t be like this. I believe that collaborative work between these two could create some really interesting outcomes.

So why is it even important to understanding cross-cultural user experience one could ask? In the new global community, it is vital for businesses to understand different cultures –  not understanding it may even block you getting to the market.

One thing that is curious is that social media services often seem to flourish without little or even no localization of the concept itself. The question is why are they as popular as they are and how important it really is to design their HCI keeping the culture in mind? How big of a role does this really have?

People still learn, right? And people are individual persons; they get cultural influences from all over. Like me: I’m originally from Estonia, I’ve now lived in Finland over 20 years and had it’s influence on me. And I’ve always, since I remember, had strong interest towards Asian cultures and philosophies, especially Japanese. These have a strong influence on how I understand and feel HCI design in my mind.

And one other thing that came to my mind. If you always designing more local projects based on the so-called local culture, it could just reinforce the general stereotypical views. So one could also ask, to which level it is necessary to design keeping the culture in mind and what aspects of it should you take to consideration? Like social media services [which are a global success] show, people learn HCI.

Of course there are clear situations where it is necessary to localize. Those situations include things like language [e.g. Chinese characters] or having a country where people are driving in the left lane and thus you should put the steering wheel on the right side of the vehicle. These are natural things to take in consideration and localize. I was thinking more in the idea level and in things like Web services: How necessary is it to plan the idea itself with the culture?

Although there are local services, like Finland has their own ‘Facebook’ the IRC-gallery, still the Facebook and those alike are often more popular than the possible local ones. Of course the localization occurs in the language [if you wish to change it from English], but the real idea behind the service stays the same.

So could it be that nowadays when people are often having global friends, it is natural to gather to a cross-cultural platform where you can socialize and meet with all your friends? And that is even a larger uniting factor than culture?

The seminar gave me a couple of really nice ideas to which I most certainly return in my later posts – some of which include collaboration in work and business.

It was nice to have such a use[r]ful seminar which was even free of charge. If you are able to visit seminars in Tampere, I’d really advice you to check Suxes website from time to time for future events.

Here’s also another post about this seminar from an e-learning angle.

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