Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 585–596 | Cite as

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

  • Ann LightEmail author
Original Article


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.


Fair Trade Production Chain Ethical Consumer Coffee Production Coffee Drinker 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Bannon L (1995) The politics of design: representing work. Communications of the ACM 38(9):66–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Boyd D (2007) Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace. Apophenia blog essay, June 24 2007:
  3. 3.
    Brown JS, Duguid P (1996) The social life of documents. First Monday, 1, 1996:
  4. 4.
    Butler JP (1990) Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Chalermsripinyorat R (2004) Politics of representation. Crit Asian Stud 36(4):541–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Friedman B, Kahn PH Jr (2003) Human values, ethics, and design. In: Jacko JA, Sears A (eds) The human-computer interaction handbook. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ, pp 1177–1201Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hall S (1997) Representation: cultural representations and signifying practices. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Jones PH (2003) Analysis and representation of field research: activity patterns in intellectual collaboration CSCW 2 workshop on analyzing collaborative activity: representing field research for understanding collaboration:
  9. 9.
    ITU Internet Reports 2005 (2005) The internet of things executive summary,
  10. 10.
    Le Dantec CA, Poole ES, Wyche SP (2009) Values as lived experience: evolving value sensitive design in support of value discovery. CHI ‘09, pp 1141–1150Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Light A (2009) Designing for other cultures: putting Hofstede to bed, Flow Interactive blog, 14th Jan 2009
  12. 12.
    Light A (2006) Adding method to meaning: a technique for exploring peoples’ experience with digital products. Behav Inform Technol 25(2)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Light A, Anderson T (2009) Research project as boundary object: negotiating the conceptual design of a tool for international development. Proc. ECSCW’09Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Light A (2010) Bridging global divides with tracking and tracing technology, IEEE PervasiveGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Light A, Kleine D, Vivent M (2010a) Performing Charlotte: a Tool to bridge cultures in participatory design. Int J Sociotechnol Knowl Dev, 1, 2Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Light A, Wakeman I, Robinson J, Basu A, Chalmers D (2010b) Chutney and relish: designing to augment the experience of shopping at a farmers’ Market, OzCHI’10Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Marsden G, Maunder A, Parker M (2008) People are people, but technology is not technology. Phil Trans R Soc A 366:3795–3804CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Massey D (1994) Space, place and gender. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Massey DB (2005) For space. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    McEwan C (2009) Postcolonialism and development. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Miller D (2004) Social justice in multicultural societies. In: Van Parijs P (ed) Cultural diversity versus economic solidarity. Deboeck University Press, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Oshlyansky L, Thimbleby H, Cairns P (2004) Breaking affordance: culture as context. Third Nordic ACM Conference on human-computer interaction, NordiChi, pp 81–84Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Oshlyansky L, Cairns P, Thimbleby H (2006) A cautionary tale: Hofstede’s VSM revisited. In: Fields B, Stockman T, Valgerour Nickerson L, Healey P (eds) Proceedings of HCI vol 2, pp 128–132Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Patnaik S, Brunskill E, Thies W (2009) Evaluating the accuracy of data collection on mobile phones: a study of forms, sms, and voice, Proc. ICTD 09, pp 74–84Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Pickens H, and others Comments on “Google Earth Raises Discrimination Issue In Japan” (2009) Slashdot:
  26. 26.
    Porter ME (1985) Competitive advantage: creating and sustaining superior performance. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Suchman L (1995) Making work visible. Communications of the ACM 38(9):56–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    von Hippel E (2005) Democratizing innovation, MIT Press, 2005:
  29. 29.
    Young IM (2005) On female body experience: “throwing like a girl” and other essays. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Robinson M, Bannon L (1991) Questioning representations.Proc. ECSCW’91Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations