, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 585-596

The politics of representing cultures in ubiquitous media: challenging national cultural norms by studying a map with Indian and British users

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Abstract

Ubiquitous computing brings new parts of the world into contact with each other through digital devices. Consequently, it is important to understand what meaning is attached across contexts to particular interface choices, especially for the display of identity-related information. This understanding is made all the more critical when there are politically sensitive differences in status between areas (such as those implied by labelling one a “developing region”). This paper examines the politics of designing interfaces by looking at the situation of two producers in developing regions and relating this to the outcomes of studying a map metaphor with potential consumers from India and the UK. It does so in the context of exploring the representation of food production information as interactive user-generated content. Its findings challenge the popular notion of national cultural norms and suggest that an interface, which emphasises geography, can hide inter-continental similarities and intra-national variation and thus provide new support for stereotyping by region.