Ramblings & ephemera

Ways different cultures view technology

From Spare me the details (The Economist: 28 October 2004):

Genevieve Bell, an anthropologist who works for Intel, the world’s biggest semiconductor-maker, has been travelling around Asia for three years to observe how Asians use, or choose not to use, technology. She was especially struck by the differences in how westerners and Asians view their homes. Americans tended to say things like “my home is my castle” and furnish it as a self-contained playground, says Ms Bell. Asians were more likely to tell her that “my home is a place of harmony”, “grace”, “simplicity” or “humility”. These Asians recoiled from gadgets that made noises or looked showy or intrusive.

Even within western cultures, Ms Bell, who is Australian, has found startling differences in the way people view technology. When she recently opened her laptop in a café in Sydney to check her e-mail on the local wireless network, using a fast-spreading technology called Wi-Fi, she immediately got a mocking “Oi, what do you think you are, famous?” from the next table. “For Americans, adopting technology is an expression of American-ness, part of the story of modernity and progress,” says Ms Bell. For many other people, it may be just a hassle, or downright pretentious.

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