Computer user interfaces in a multicultural society
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This research discusses some of the cultural issues that could influence the human computer encounter in a multicultural community. The results of research to determine differences in computer usage caused by cultural differences when using computer user interfaces in simulated and real-world environments are also discussed. Various cultural aspects could possibly influence the effectiveness of the user interface in a multicultural society. Language is an important factor and studies have shown that simple translation will increase productivity (Bodley, 1993:23). However all languages do not contain the necessary technical vocabulary. Mothers from a lower social class typically use a limited language code when communicating with their children (Mussen et aI.,1984:206). As this causes the children to think in more concrete and less conceptual terms, it may influence the human computer interaction, particularly where a high degree of abstraction, such as in graphical interfaces, is used. Symbolism is problematic as symbols like light bulbs, recycle bins and VCR controls do not feature in the life of users living in slum and backward rural conditions. Lack of exposure to technology might negatively influence user attitude (Downton, 1991:25) with a corresponding inhibition of learning and performance. All external locus of control is common among disadvantaged groups due to the high degree of rejection, hostile control and criticism they experience. As the sense of being out of control is largely associated with the indication to avoid stressful situations, users from these groups might prefer to avoid situations where they do not feel in control. The strong differentiation between the roles of the sexes in certain cultures can also influence the encounter with the computer (Downton, 1991:10) It has been shown that the different gender orientations towards problem solving in these cultures can have an important influence on computer usage. The intracultural factors of social class play a significant role in determining how a person acts and thinks (Baruth & Manning, 1991 :9-1 0). Such differences may sometimes be more pronounced than those resulting from cultural diversity and may influence the orientation of the user towards abstraction and generalization.