Collective reflection on cross-cultural and value-sensitive design

Friday, August 7, 2020

Doctoral Trainee Tag Alshehri brought together researchers from different countries for an open discussion reflecting on their experiences, success and struggles in working within cultural and value-sensitive settings in design research, as part of the HCI summer festival.

The collective reflection on cross cultural and value sensitive design discussion was divided into three main themes:

  • Problem definition: How do we ensure our design problems are reflective of real-world problems of the population under study?
  • Data collection: How do we communicate with informants and elicit their values in a culturally sensitive approach?
  • Research communication: How do we transfer the cultural insights gained from the fieldwork to the rest of the design team?

The discussion initially revolved around the definition of culture, and the question regarding how to define culture in different cultural contexts, before conducting culturally sensitive work. Some argued for a “contextual” definition of culture, and others pointed at the importance of conceptualizing culture within multiple layers (and sub-cultures).

A frequently raised point was regarding reflexivity on the researcher’s own role and values and how it could affect or hinder their understanding of their participant’s culture. Being an insider or recruiting an insider (community researcher) was suggested as one possibility to facilitate that understanding. Also, the notion of self-disclosure of the researcher’s stance in a more elaborate manner such as writing a monologue was suggested as another potential method to establish a deeper reflexivity practice.

In addition to the researcher’s roles, the participants discussed collaborators including gatekeepers or community researchers. Some argued for avoiding reliance on one party as a gatekeeper to avoid the potential bias in recruiting participants and excluding others from certain groups.

This means collaborating with multiple gatekeepers could help minimize such bias. Others raised the point on making the recruitment process open and transparent such as using social media.

To ensure communicating the user research to the rest of the team, the notion of ‘advocacy’ was suggested as a powerful role the researcher could take to influence the rest of the team and how they perceive the importance of the participants' accounts.

On the other hand, the metaphor of the ‘Chinese whisper’ was referred to as a potential risk in having the meaning of the data lost throughout the communication process between the design researcher and the rest of the design team.