Qualitative Secondary Analysis as an Alternative Approach for Cross-Cultural Design

Digital Social Innovation

Collaborators Microsoft, Monash University

Abstract

We introduce the use of Qualitative Secondary Analysis (QSA) as a bottom-up approach to construct a richer and more dynamic understanding of culture to inform our best practices in Cross-Cultural Design.

Method

We draw upon two case studies (with 55 participants) to investigate the cultural factors underpinning our participants views.

Takeaways

We conclude with a reflection on key affordances and challenges of QSA, illustrating how QSA can be leveraged to unravel otherwise overlooked knowledge present in many qualitative HCI studies.

It is widely acknowledged in HCI that culture is embodied in many aspects of an individual's identity and interaction with technology. Whilst existing cultural models have been criticized for providing a deterministic view of culture, alternative methods for incorporating culture in design remain scarce. We introduce the use of Qualitative Secondary Analysis (QSA) as a bottom-up approach to construct a richer and more dynamic understanding of culture to inform our best practices in Cross-Cultural Design.

We demonstrate the use of QSA within a culturally specific context, namely Saudi transnationals. We draw upon two case studies (with 55 participants) to investigate the cultural factors underpinning our participants views. We conclude with a reflection on key affordances and challenges of QSA, illustrating how QSA can be leveraged to unravel otherwise overlooked knowledge present in many qualitative HCI studies.

Understanding Culture in Cross-Cultural Design

Unlike the deterministic nature of typical top-down cultural models with a set of pre-defined universal dimensions, the use of QSA allowed us to distil cultural dimensions from the ground up using existing data obtained from a culturally specific group.

Since QSA is grounded on real accounts of many individuals, QSA allowed us to reveal distinctive aspects of culture that may not have been captured through universal cultural models. As such we address an often criticized limitation with these models, which is that they overlook cultural specificities.

This approach allows different (and contradictory) narratives to co-exist to reveal the nuances and diversity within our participants’ views. Unlike with top-down models, this approach acknowledges the influence of culture on individuals regardless of their orientations towards existing cultural norms.

Implications for Cross-Cultural Design (And HCI)

The Choice Of Primary Dataset

While typical qualitative datasets may include references to cultural concepts, the extent of this depends heavily on the nature of the primary research question and the topic discussed with participants. It is the primary researcher's responsibility to make the judgement of whether or not a given dataset is suitable for a QSA aimed at generating a ‘bottom up’ account of culture.

The Choice Of Conceptualizing Dimensions

Not all qualitative researchers may find constructing cultural dimensions to be a natural process. The more immersed the researchers and the closer they are to the cultural context, the more natural it would be to achieve such a goal.

The Choice Of Operationalizing Dimensions

The point of these cultural dimensions is to provide a richer and deeper understanding of the cultural context early in the design cycle which could guide consequent stages. We thus propose the use of QSA to deepen our understanding of culture to hopefully guide designers and enhance their cultural sensitivity in cross-cultural design. This understanding has helped better communicate and “speak the user's language”, ask relevant questions and examine the effect of relevant cultural values in subsequent studies.