First of all, have I name checked Dekker’s Just Culture book in this blog? “Just”, in this case, doesn’t mean merely culture, or only culture, but a cultural environment that is fair, based on justice. My mind has gone off at a tangent here – it’s Friday and I no longer have to pretend that I am a serious person. I merely cross-referenced to Robert Hughes “The Culture of Complaint” and then to C.P. Snow’s two cultures and then culture vultures and then the culture of herbaceous borders and so it goes on.
Culture appears very much of a buzzword at the moment. There’s a little bit that we covered in the MSc about it, about designing for different cultures, which covered how university websites present different aspects in Greece, China and the US, depending on what is seen as important to students and/or their parents.
That in itself is an amazing question. Is it the student or the parent who chooses the university? Behind that lie a whole set of assumptions and values that are tagged with the word “culture”. Then there is the idea of someone being “cultured” which has a faintly superior air to it. we don’t talk about people being cultured if they talk about Jay-Zee and the chip shop, but if it’s Liszt and Chez Panisse, then that is cultured. But it isn’t culture as in cultured pearls – though in both senses there is an implication of it being created rather than emerging naturally.
Our culture can be summarised as the totality of the external experience which we have internalised and trigger our emotions and inform our values. Some of it will be common – for example, western music conventions are widely recognised across the world, and some will be more particular to our own experience (such as breakfast choice).
When you create an interface, it is informed by your culture. What matters is whether understanding it requires an understanding of the culture or merely of the interface. A famous example of this, is the different meaning of a red light, which can mean a live socket or a problem (or an invitation, or a veto). Just because you know what you mean by it doesn’t mean the user will. But luckily, most of the time they don’t have to.
Oh, and the Dekker book? That basically says, that if you get punished for making for mistakes or discovering errors, you’re going to hide the fact you make them, and this will lead to some very big problems