Response to “Calibrating your Cultural Compass”

Of all the methods of rapid cultural calibration that is mentioned, what I found the most interesting was the idea of observing people in their morning routines and in their transportation modes. Having lived in Ohio, New York, and now Singapore, how people travel to work and how they prepare for their day is very different. In Ohio, a commute is defined by the automobile. Depending on the distance to the workplace, which is typically in the downtown area, people who drive from the suburbs will spend anywhere between 45 and 1.5 hours commuting to work in their cars. The time that is spent alone in a car can be used to listen to the radio or to sing aloud. In New York, this time is spent on the subway, much like Singapore’s MRT. In New York, the subways are nearly silent in the mornings, crammed with people with only inches of personal space. This can affect how a digital designer may approach the design of a podcast application; listening habits vary in different contexts.

While I’m not too familiar yet with Singapore’s morning commute culture (living on campus hasn’t provided me with the daily experience of seeing how people go about their mornings), what I have noticed is how the signage differs from New York’s. Singapore signage is accompanied with steeper fees and severe penalties, perhaps more influentially shaping human behavior compared to signage in New York. The only New York signage that is accompanied by steep fees is for assaulting subway employees, which may suggest a violent phenomenon that occurred in the past. How different are the cultural norms of rule obedience from Singapore to New York and is this shaped by the penalties?

Chipchase mentions that finding the balance between informal and formal research methods is the key to successful design research. I wonder if design researchers, particularly those who are more experienced, know exactly what balance to strike between these research methodologies when approaching a new project. Or do design researchers employ a variety of methods, and then refine and readjust their methodologies as they go on (much like the design process, which involves iteration and trial-and-error).

Chapter 1: The Design of Everyday Things

Thinking of affordances as a relationship between two properties is an interesting point that Norman mentions. Prior to reading The Design of Everyday Things, I have thought of objects and their affordances only within the context of one particular user. For example, a car affords a person with the ability to drive. But thinking of it as a relationship between two properties forces me to think of the user as more than one person. What is the relationship between someone who is shorter and the car compared to the relationship between a person who is taller and a car? The affordances change.