Reading Response | Chapter 5 Hidden in Plain Sight: Calibrating Your Cultural Compass

Youtube video by Adobe Creative Cloud this reminded me of:

There’s a famous saying in UX/UI design and usability engineering that goes “don’t listen to what people say, watch what they do” and my prof at UW used to always repeat this to us. I am now starting to understand the implications of this after pairing it with the work of Jan Chipchase. In chapter 5 he outlines a variety of concepts such as community trust, social norms, and even cross-cultural similarities/differences. When designing applications or interactive environments I often do exactly what Chipchase was denoting to throughout the article — that is to do field studies and take into consideration unique factors that apply to a group of people. Some of the places that he observes and extracts information from is chain restaurants/companies, hairdressers, the airport, and the inner streets of cities. I like how he mentioned the importance of sensory exploration. Sometimes we as designers forget that all 5 senses are important for good design ideation, not only what you see.

When I first arrived in Singapore I was overwhelmed by the number of regulatory signs that are at every corner of the country. I’m originally from Toronto, Canada, and we have restrictive laws but definitely not as many as I’ve seen here. For instance, while traveling on the MRT I’ve seen “no eating, and drinking” signs… which spacial designers then have to take into consideration so that they don’t place vending machines on-site near the trains. Whereas in Toronto this law does not apply so adding a vending machine wouldn’t be a bad idea, people would actually really appreciate it. Another example would be Wrigley’s Excel Gum, which is very well known in Canada but since there are laws around gum here in Singapore it wouldn’t be profitable nor legal for companies like them to expand to Singapore. Furthermore, we can even see a lot about Singapore’s culture through their bathroom system. In Toronto, you can find gender-neutral bathrooms in public malls and universities. In the span of 4 months, I have not seen one gender-neutral bathroom (not any that I can recall). In Toronto, they are constantly aiming to be an inclusive city — whether it be religion, disabilities, or sexual orientations. The same goes for Singapore but not at the level of seriousness of inclusion that I see in Toronto. Last but not least, Chipchase got me thinking about the level of trust in Singapore and I have to say it is quite high. I absolutely love the feeling of walking home at night or even crossing the street in broad daylight and not feeling like I’m going to die. I get the sense that this level of trust starts with respect, people here just respect all walks of life and are more mindful about preserving life.

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