Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Open Access or Silent Culture (part 2)

TedxBradford review part 1... go here.

5) UNIVERSAL  If we can build any kind of ICT, why do we keep pushing out the same stuff?

Engineers change design to suit context all the time.  When traveling across land, I can go by motorcycle or train.  When traveling across water, I can go by kayak or submarine.  Each has a different power source and a different way travelers are treated from a design perspective.  Why does ICT in conflict applications treat users as if they have the same information management needs?

Problem: We can't have each culture designing its own type of web products and ICTs... how would they all understand each other?  All this great interoperability we've been accruing would be diminished.  Well, there are 2 answers to that fear...

First, if other ICTs were developed on alternate cognitive models, alternate cultural communication patterns, any challenges in understanding would mirror what happens face-to-face, and we seem to have been doing that ok (not perfectly) since the existence of different cultures among humans.  If the communication and information management tech approximated the cognitive and communicative patterns of other cultures it would be an extension of how we already operate.  We redesign to permit diversity all the time.  I am left-handed.  There are lots of things that have been designed to facilitate co-existence of right and left-handed users.  This is a basic spatial and cognitive problem which we have navigated.  Let's try a harder one.

What does this interoperability serve at the moment?  The head of the International Union of Telecommunications (the UN's are of Telecom regulation) has said in a 2011 interview:   
'The best defense is, apparently, not to speak English, as the language barrier can give local content providers the vital advantage they need before Google et al take over.' 

Developers in other countries are following the model, the standard, the play-doh factory mold, to be commercially viable in a global market.  Many design with external users in mind rather than domestic ones according to an interview on Al Jazeera's The Stream about African innovations.  How does this kind of designing help domestic users of ICT for conflict resolution applications? 


This design follows the shape of a paragraph in English and many other European languages.  New and material information, just like the conclusion sentence, will be found at the bottom right.  This is the Twitter feed.  Given information, such as the premise statements in a paragraph, are at the top left.  The overall idea of the space is both 'given' and 'ideal' so it can be found at the top left.  For brands that want to be earthier, they can be found in the 'real/given' placement of the bottom left.  There is evidence of a linear timeline, and giving preference to future events which are both features of US/Western culture.  Now this is just a webpage not an interactive ICT space, but many of the same rules apply which govern our notion of how space makes sense or what an object means by where it is and what it looks like.  Some of these are conscious design choices while others may not be.  The underlying structure which links to other pages and databases reinforces design features which have dichotomies such as ticked/unticked boxes to categorize or turn things 'on/off.' 

In this picture from Digital Democracy project in South Africa, kids created a loop of information and communication tech which was organizing and managed without text... through phone and radio, a cycle of ICT in which the data remained as speech.  Why does information have to be written down to be a record?  To be used for conflict resolution?  To be leverage in changing this situation, it needed to be heard by the community, remain accessible, and prove trustworthy, transparent.  There could be a mobile or web application which built from this model... watching conflict resolution strategies and communication preferences in-culture will yield more useful, trusted and successful ICT tools.