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Global Information Architecture Workshop



Workshop on global IA presented in Miami, 2008 at the IA Summit.

Workshop on global IA presented in Miami, 2008 at the IA Summit.



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  • Untranslatable words in the overview slides are taken from the book “They have a word for it – a lighthearted lexicon of untranslatable words & phrases” by Howard Rheingold, 1988. Global Information Architecture is about developing the taxonomies, navigation systems, labeling conventions, content structures etc. that make up the structure of a website in a global environment, where language and culture come into play.

Global Information Architecture Workshop Global Information Architecture Workshop Presentation Transcript

  • Global Information Architecture Workshop. Peter Van Dijck – April 11, 2008. ASIS&T IA Summit Pre- Conference | asis@asis.org
  • Today
    • Introduction.
    • Categories are cultural.
    • What happens when classifications go global?
    • Classifying people & work.
    • Developing locales.
    • Break.
    • Locale switcher.
    • Global gateway.
    • Content availability indicator.
    • Alphabetical order.
    • Translating taxonomies.
    • Intercultural user research.
    • (tag: globalia)
  • What is culture?
    • Culture comes in layers :
      • Visible products of culture. (symbols, laws, products, practices, …)
      • Values and norms , that become invisible.
    • Culture shows up at different levels
      • Countries, regions
      • Generations
      • Gender
      • Social class
      • Professional groups
      • Religions
    • Everyone belongs to multiple cultures .
  • Myths about culture & technology.
    • The myth of globalization as cultural standardization.
      • People give meaning to artifacts & practices.
    • The myth that there is one path of technological evolution.
      • Technology and culture interact, are co-created.
  • Categories are cultural. Biga Peula (Kiriwina, New Guinea) Potentially disruptive, unredeemable true statements.
  • The continents
    • Seven Continents : Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, South America.
    • Seven Continents : Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Europe, North America, Australia, South America. (in USA)
    • Six Continents : Africa, Antarctica, Oceania, Eurasia, North America, and South America.
    • Six Continents: Africa, America, Antarctica, Asia, Oceania, and Europe.
    • Five Continents : Africa, America, Oceania, Antarctica, Eurasia.
    • Five Continents : Africa, America, Oceania, Europe, Asia. (in Europe and South America)
    • Four Continents : America, Oceania, Antarctica, Eurafrasia.
  • Let’s organize this mess once and for all.
  • Dewey Decimal System
    • 210 Natural theology
    • 220 Bible
    • 230 Christian Theology
    • 240 Christian moral & devotional theology
    • 250 Christian orders & local churches
    • 260 Christian social theology
    • 270 Christian church history
    • 280 Christian denominations & sects
    • 290 Other and comparative religions
      • 294 Religions of Indic origin
        • 294.3 Buddhism
  • Why hasn’t it been updated?
    • Categories become embedded in infrastructure .
    • There is no one categorization that works for everyone.
  • The Maori
  • The Craigslist mistake
  • Bias.
  • Recap: categories are cultural
    • Categories are cultural
    • Dewey’s lessons:
      • Categories are embedded in infrastructure.
      • There is no taxonomy that works for everyone.
    • The Craigslist mistake.
    • Don’t be afraid of bias.
  • What happens when classification systems go global ? Kyoikumama (Japanese) Mother who pushes her children into academic achievement [noun]
  • Introducing IA archeology
    • Geoffrey C. Bower & Susan Leigh Star researched the ICD, a long lived, global taxonomy, from a social science point of view.
  • ICD examples
  • The ICD.
    • Worldwide : every country of the world uses some version of the ICD.
      • The ICD is ubiquitous in medical information systems.
    • Long lived (origins in the late 19 th century), and still used today.
    • Multiple audiences . Used by different groups: doctors (MD’s), statisticians, insurance companies, …
      • It’s taught to medical practitioners.
  • Multiple audiences worldwide
    • Countries: gathered in developed & less developed countries.
    • Cultures: differences in culture cause different classifications.
    • Audiences : different needs of doctors, epidemiologists and statisticians.
      • Used by states, hospitals, insurance companies.
      • More interested parties: industrial firms & pharmaceutical companies, …
  • Standards & workarounds
    • The divergence in worldviews is dealt with by standardizing …
        • Which is responded to with workarounds .
          • The “other” category becomes very useful, or the first or default choice.
        • There is no perfect solution for this tension between central and local.
  • Recap: classification systems that go global:
    • Touch more audiences …
      • with their own priorities & worldviews.
    • Attempt to standardize …
      • which is responded to with workarounds .
  • Classifying People & Work.
  • Classifying people .
    • 1977:
    • Please choose your race (only one): - White - Black - American Indian and Alaskan Native - Asian and Pacific Islander
    • Please choose your ethnicity: - Hispanic - Non-hispanic
    • 1997:
    • Please choose your race (one or more): - American Indian or Alaska Native - Black or African American - Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander - White - Some Other Race
    • Please choose your ethnicity (only one): - Hispanic - Non-Hispanic
  • Classifying work .
    • Work classification is used for lots of purposes:
      • accounting, quality management, recordkeeping, business processes, legitimization of work practice, etc…
  • Recap
    • Consider the consequences when classifying people (& work).
      • Careful with limiting categories.
    • Don’t assume your local classifications of people & work will globalize easily.
  • Developing locales. Maya (Sanskrit) The mistaken belief that a symbol is the same as the reality it represents. [noun]
  • Language complexity
    • Most countries have multiple languages and some languages are spoken in many countries.
    • UK :
      • Native languages: Welsh, Scottish, Cornish, Manx, Irish.
      • No official language (as the USA).
      • English reaches everyone.
    • Belgium :
      • French, Dutch and German official languages.
      • French & Dutch required.
        • Local version preferred but not required.
    • Switzerland :
      • German, French, Italian and about 1% Romansh.
      • International written versions of these are ok, although locally spoken versions are different.
    • China :
      • Lots of languages and dialects, Mandarin is the most common.
      • 2 versions of written language: Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese.
      • For PRC (Mainland China) or Singapore: Simplified Chinese. For Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau: Traditional Chinese (with a few differences for Hong Kong and Macau).
  • Languages spoken
    • Yiddish linguist Max Weinrich: “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy”
    • Most people in the world are native speakers of more than 1 language.
    • India :
      • Over 100 languages spoken (427 total).
      • English and Hindi are the most universal.
      • Provinces have local languages (Malayalam for Kerala).
      • Indian English is quite different from American or British English. ("Dear Sir, with reference to your above see my below.“)
    • Africa :
      • 1000s of languages
        • Nigeria has 516 spoken languages. Congo 216.
      • Most people speak 2, 3 or 4 languages natively.
      • Trade languages include Swahili, and since colonization French (West Africa) and English (East Africa).
  • Global languages
    • English, Spanish, Portuguese and French (and others) are spoken in many countries, but have different versions.
    • English : British and American English separate (esp. for consumers), but use American if you have to choose, unless you’re based in the UK.
      • Indian English is very different (“ You're going, isn't it? ”, “ I am understanding it. ”). (Like Black English, but Indian English has an army and a navy.)
      • Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa probably prefer British English.
    • French : European French is somewhat different from Canadian French, but not much.
    • Spanish : each country has its own variant, but you can use "Latin American Spanish” for Latin America and European Spanish for Spain.
      • USA Spanish becomes Spanglish.
      • “ Universal Spanish” is also possible.
    • Portuguese : Brazilian and European Portuguese are so far apart that you need two separate versions.
  • What are locales
    • Terminology: internationalize & localize.
    • A locale is traditionally a country-language combination.
    • User expectations are going up:
      • average website in John Yunker’s report is localized in 20 languages. Google search is available in 117 languages.
  • How to get started
    • Look at locale structure
    • Think markets, not languages
  • Typical example
  • Which languages?
    • English is the new trade language.
    • Top 10 spoken languages:
        • English
        • French
        • Spanish (Latin America)
        • Russian
        • Arabic (middle east)
        • Chinese
        • German
        • Japanese
        • Portuguese (Brazil)
        • Hindu-Urdu (India)
    • Easy recipe:
      • Latin languages first: English & Spanish.
      • Next: French, German, Portuguese (they’re easy).
      • Next: Russian & Hindu-Urdu (not easy markets to enter though).
      • Next: Mandarin & Japanese (harder to localize for).
      • Next: Arabic (hardest to localize for – left to right!)
    • Most internet users:
        • China
        • USA
        • Japan
        • Germany
        • UK
  • Locale structure
    • Translate the UI
    • Template site.
    • Separate sites
  • When to use:
    • Translate the UI
      • Social networks (Myspace, Flickr, …)
      • Simple brochuresites.
    • Templated site.
      • Intranets
      • Product companies (Dell, …)
    • Separate sites:
      • Marketplaces (eBay, Craigslist, Amazon)
    • UI translated. Content is the same (either all translated or not, for user generated content).
    • Central templates with local adjustments.
    • UI can diverge over time. Content is local. Categories can be different.
  • Hyperlocalize
    • Specialized, very local locales that have a large population and often a lot of pride in their localness.
  • Overlapping locales
    • Locales have a strong tendency to float and overlap.
  • Domain names
    • Everything under mysite.com, or local domains (mysite.co.uk, mysite.fr, …).
      • Don’t use domain names for language locales, use fr.mysite.com or mysite.com/fr/ instead.
        • Don’t necessarily translate myword.com into monmot.fr
      • Legal consequences: hosting locally, availability of domain names, …
      • Think about your markets, and don’t be afraid of a mixed strategy.
    • Translate branding domains (advertising campaigns, …).
    • International domain names are coming (2009 - …).
  • Business.
  • A word about effect on business strategy.
    • Business processes
    • Marketing & branding
    • Revenue:
      • Top 3 users of Orkut: 66% in Brazil, 10% in the USA, 7% in Iran.
      • Advertising (USA) versus digital goods (Asia) for social networks.
    • Don’t go global, go regional.
      • Effects on business (offices, business processes, adjustments in product offerings, …) tend to scale to regions, not global.
  • Recap: locales
    • Languages.
    • Locale structure.
    • Hyperlocalize.
    • Overlapping locales.
    • Domain names.
    • Effects on business & strategy.
  • Exercise: Latin America locales
    • You’re at a social network X (competes with Facebook & such), currently US English only, and you need to come up with a strategy to expand to “Latin America” (no detail was given).
  • Break.
  • Locale switcher.
  • The basics
    • Locale naming:
      • Use “Français” instead of “French”.
      • Careful with flags.
    • Show current locale.
    • Let user switch.
    • Remember settings.
  • Global Gateway . Kulikov (Yiddish) Legal judgment made for pragmatic reasons. [adjective]
  • Basics
    • See locale switcher, plus:
    • Just the locales; 1 page.
    • Still keep locale switcher on site.
    • Two styles: gateway first, or homepage first.
  • Content availability .
  • Content availability indicator
    • Shows other available languages for content.
    • Use when:
      • User is not seeing content in their language, but other languages are available.
      • User may want to see alternative options.
  • Alphabetical ordering.
  • Fucha (Polish) Using company time and resources for your own ends. [verb] Translating taxonomies.
  • Translating taxonomies.
    • Taxonomies depend on content, users & context.
    • Ambiguity of the taxonomy affects translatability:
      • technical terms -> country list -> subject category.
      • Unambiguous … -> ... Very ambiguous.
  • Issues with translating taxonomies
    • Semantic overlap
    • Differences in granularity
    • Differences in hierarchy
    • Untranslatable concepts
  • 1. Semantic overlap girl fille niña GIRL: A female child. An immature or inexperienced woman, especially a young woman. A daughter: our youngest girl. Informal. A grown woman: a night out with the girls. A female who comes from or belongs to a particular place: a city girl. Offensive. A female servant, such as a maid. A female sweetheart: cadets escorting their girls to the ball. Very few words match up exactly between two languages. Context is needed to clarify. Girl = niña, chica, joven or hija.
  • 2. Differences in granularity
    • Germans don’t have a word for skidding, but they do have two words, Rutschen and Schleudern, for skidding forwards and skidding sideways.
    skidding Skidding sideways Skidding forwards n/a rutschen schleudern
  • 3. Differences in hierarchy
    • French hierarchy: Betail > gros betail > boeuf English hierarchy: livestock > — > cattle
    betail Gros betail boeuf livestock n/a cattle banana n/a n/a platano platano banana
  • 4. Untranslatable concepts
    • Some concepts don’t have a translation but can be explained, others cannot be explained completely.
      • Also between different user groups (doctors and patients, for example).
  • Being practical
    • Develop centrally, translate and adjust locally if needed (the Dewey Decimal approach).
    • Develop in each locale (the eBay approach).
  • Intercultural user research. Zwischenraum (German) The space between things. [noun]
  • Team composition
      • Nepalese antropologist Rajendra Pradhan: “Believe believe believe, that’s what everyone here talks about.”
      • Researcher (elderly black lady): “People told me they opened up to me because of my color and grey hairs”.
    • Recognize that you have blind spots, and think about your team composition.
  • Gut feel.
    • Jorge Arango: “It looks too dry”.
    • You can’t rely on gut feel to evaluate for other cultures.
    • “Studying culture without experiencing culture shock is like practicing to swim without water.”
    • Test for “ angry ”, with locals.
    The usefulness of culture shock
  • Adapting your methodology
    • UX methodology is US/Western centered.
    • Evaluating content for immigrant students.
      • English & Spanish versions.
      • Different content.
    • Talk out loud is a typical problem.
      • Bollywood technique (invented by Apala Lahiri Chavan).
  • Recap
    • Team composition
      • Recognize that you have blind spots, and think about your team composition.
    • Gut feel
      • You can’t rely on gut feel to evaluate for other cultures.
    • The usefulness of culture shock
      • Test for angry
    • Adapting your methodology
      • UX methodology is US/Western centered.
  • Recap of today & discussion . Kekau (Indonesian) To awaken from a nightmare. [verb]
  • Recap & discussion
    • Introduction.
    • Categories are cultural.
    • What happens when classifications go global?
    • Classifying people & work.
    • Developing locales.
    • Break.
    • Locale switcher.
    • Global gateway.
    • Content availability indicator.
    • Alphabetical order.
    • Translating taxonomies.
    • Intercultural user research.
  • Thank you . Wei-wu-wei (Chinese) Conscious nonaction; the act of not acting. [verb]
  • Recommended books
    • Sorting things out – classification and its consequences.
      • Geoffrey C. Bowker and Susan Leigh Star.
    • Riding the waves of culture – understanding diversity in global business.
      • Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner.
    • Keywords – a vocabulary of culture and society.
      • Raymond Williams.
    • Word on the street – debunking the myth of a “pure” standard English.
      • John McWhorter
    • Women, Fire and Dangerous Things – What categories reveal about the Mind.
      • George Lakoff
    • Cultures and organizations – software of the mind – intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival.
      • Geert Hofstede.
    • They have a word for it – a lighthearted lexicon of untransltable words & phrases.
      • Howard Rheingold.
    • Redefining global strategy – crossing borders in a world where differences still matter.
      • Pankaj Ghemawat
    • The platypus and the mermaid – and other figments of the classifying imagination.
      • Harriet Ritvo