[ISEA94] Panel: Acha Debela – Transcultural Approaches Panel Notes

Panel Statement

Panel: Transcultural Approaches

Rejane Spitz invited my to contribute to this panel by expressing “the utmost eurocentric modernist jargon” … “from a first world perspective”. I would like to go further and suggest that we could all become victims of the ubiquity of this technology and its inherent value systems. Ironically it may be the “deprived” third world communities who do not receive access to the hallowed high-bandwidth information highways, who survive with at least some semblance of freedom and independence. Indeed we could reasonably argue that the inhabitants of the First World have already been enslaved by their addiction to technology and its products: material information and wealth.

The burgeoning computer technology and the development of user interface softwares particularly tools meant for use for computer graphics have a historical precedence that are
woven with problems and dilemmas specially related to the practicing artist. The rather complex issues surrounding the evolution of tools are to date results of culturally biased world
outlook. Until relatively recently, User Interfaces have generally been built by and, some may argue, for white males who are well educated and between the ages of 20 and 40, ignoring
the diversity of the human race. Hence the User Interface development community along with software designers in computer graphics and others in design, do have and often incorporate
certain biases. The need for consideration of the UI and GI developers understand that, their targeted audience is increasingly diverse, hence the need to recognize and incorporate cultural
nuances and of cultural diversity not only in language, terms, icons, and colors but in every aspect of User Interface design. Approaches to metaphors, mental model, navigation, and
even the style,look and feel of products should be part of the effort towards a better human machine interface and its design. Where the idea of developing tools was the sole responsibility
of the software engineer,it is advisable to have the human factor specialist, the focus groups to come to grips and include a multi-discipline team of designers. It is also essential ,if not crucial that graphics tools are developed in consultation with practicing artists. Artists whose creative out put depends on how well a tool and or graphics software is designed, or how well it can perform both simple and complex problems of image making. Hence the idea of a team of interdisciplinary engineers, and artists are necessary for a successful product. Beyond the problem of design biases in UI and GI, there exists a serious problem of assumption and attitude by both developers and owners of the technology that what is good to us should also be good to them. Beyond that exists the larger problem of technology exchange on a global level in general and the former colonies and their colonizers, namely the problem of the so called North South axis in particular. The exchange on many levels indicate that what matters
most at any level of exporting technology is profit and political expeditiousness not culture or human value. When human creativity and cultural values are put on a pedestal to be looked at or judged as high and low, the challenge becomes whose pedestal and by whose definition and
whose standard. The “third world” contribution is crucial if the human race is to benefit and nurture the edge of electronic art towards an enriched human experience in all its diversity
and quality. To this end the role of the user, creator artist as a mediator and a diplomat of cultural exchange becomes an essential ingredient that becomes a voice. A voice that cares.

  • Acha Debela, Ethiopia/USA