WEIRD people: cultural differences in reasoning style and visual perception

September 19, 2010

When we travel to exotic countries, especially developing nations, we often find the locals to be kind of weird. But let’s be honest, we are the weird ones, because we are the minority.

I was very glad to find that some scholars had the same thought, and just published their research on the dangers of relying on Western samples for generalizing to the human population. As I previously posted, there is evidence of differences in visual perceptions and decision making across cultures (see Nisbett, The Geography of Thought), but few scientist have been investigating the topic.

Luckily a new era seems about to start.
Nature and Science have been covering the topic, reporting the results of a study on “The weirdest people in the world” by Henrich, Heine & Norenzayan (Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 2010), where WEIRD stands for
Western
Educated
Industrialized
Rich
Democratic
societies. They show how the result of experiments conducted in the United States and other industrialized societies are not representative of the human population as a whole.
Of particular interest for Knowledge Visualization is the difference in visual perception and spatial cognition. For example the Muller-Lyer illusion (in the picture below) seems to be stronger for westerners than for small-scale traditional societies. Similarly, in most of comparative studies Westerners, and particularly Americans, “occupy the extreme end of the human distribution” (pg.5).

There seems to be a general trend toward an understanding of the need to consider non-western perspectives, as confirmed by the next Academy of Management meeting theme “West meets East”
Stay tuned for our forthcoming experimental results comparing Europe and Asia 😉

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Virtual World Conference

September 12, 2010

— GUEST POST by ANDREAS SCHMEIL

The program of The Virtual World Conference is online now, at http://thevirtualworldconference.org

The Virtual World Conference is a unique event exploring the use of online virtual worlds for learning, collaborative work and business ventures, which will be hosted over a 24-hour period entirely in Second Life on 15 September 2010.

The one-day conference, following the sun around the globe, will bring together 21 international speakers to share ideas, showcase innovations and applications, and hold debates with a world-wide audience. This is an excellent opportunity to get a snapshot of leading research and expertise in the field, as well as network with like-minded peers.

Anna Peachey (The Open University/Eygus Ltd) and Professor Sara de Freitas (SGI/Lab Group) will chair in the European zone, with Andreas Schmeil (PARC/University of Lugano) in the American Pacific Coast time zone and Claus Nehmzow (Alcus International Ltd/Hong Kong) in the East Asian time zone.

The conference will consider how virtual worlds can change the way we learn, work and socialise, focusing on three core themes:

* Social interaction, societies and communities in virtual worlds.
* Business applications and strategies for using virtual worlds.
* Formal and informal teaching and learning in virtual worlds.

The Virtual World Conference will host trainers, experts, teachers, policy-makers, managers, consultants, tutors and researchers from industry, academia, schools and policy development, with representation from a wide range of different sectors including:

* Education: schools, colleges and universities.
* Research: universities, institutes, industrial labs.
* Training: training organisations, private foundations.
* Industry: international companies, SMEs.
* Health: hospitals and training institutions, care trusts.
* Environment: planning agencies, environmental agencies, emergency response organisations.
* Government: central government departments, agencies and local government authorities.

For more information, and to register, please see the website at www.thevirtualworldconference.org

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Start-ups’ branding

September 11, 2010

Our article “Brand new ventures? Insights on start-ups’ branding practices” has just been published by the Journal of Product & Brand Management (Vol. 19 Iss: 5, pp.356 – 366, 2010).

The paper aims to shed light on the specificity of branding approaches for young companies for the reason that branding is a crucial activity for the survival and success of a newly established firm as it facilitates finding and maintain customers.  Adopting a case study methodology, mainly through in-depth interviews with CEOs and communication managers, 15 of the largest and most successful start-up companies of Switzerland were analyzed.

The paper establishes an overview on the current practices and rational of the brand building activities choices, and on the emblematic pitfalls regarding branding of new ventures. It suggests that young companies should not be forced to compare their branding strategies to multinational firms and proposes a framework and key guidelines for start-up branding.

The proposed visual framework and guidelines can be relevant for future entrepreneurs and brand consultants, to orient and better motivate their decisions toward branding creations and development for new and young ventures.

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Knowledge Visualization at I-KNOW 10

September 6, 2010

Our research group had two presentation and a poster (see last week’s post) at the I-Know conference 2010.

Martin Eppler presented his research with Alice Comi on inter-organizational knowledge sharing (in the picture below). They found that groups using visual representations are more productive than groups using traditional plain paper. And interactive visualization (= computer-based) is better than paper templates.

Then Nicole Bischof talk focused on clarity and gave practical insights on how to make power-point presentations more clear. tips include having a clear structure and not putting too much text on the slides. The study respondents also reported that misspelling was not an issue, while skipping slides seems to be very irritating for the audience!

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I-KNOW conference 2010

September 6, 2010

The I-KNOW conference just took place in Graz, Austria.
Lots of talking about visualization, starting with the first keynote Marti Hearst (UC Berkley). In her plenary talk she emphasized the trend toward more and more audiovisual communication at the expenses of text. We are glad to know that 🙂 She was presenting directly from her ipad, and somewhat surprising her slides didn’t have much of audio-visual material; but the second keynote, Rafael Sidi of Elsevier, had plenty of beautiful images (as in the picture on the right).

At the conference exhibit, Microsoft was showcasing Surface, the multi-touch and multi-user screen. It’s a table with several cameras inside that recognizes natural hand gestures as well as objects.
Steve jobs would say “it works like magic”, and indeed it seems so, although it’s quite more expensive and heavy than an ipod/ipad. It seems useful for collaborative knowledge work in organizations. Although I guess tha orientation remains an issue, it’s fun!

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I-KNOW10 Knowledge visualization

September 2, 2010

Our poster at the I-KNOW 10 conference: Conveying Strategy Knowledge Using Visualization vs. Text: Empirical Evidence from Asia and Europe


Click to download pdf

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Sketching at work

September 2, 2010

The new book of our research group is now online: Sketching at Work. A guide to Visual Problem solving and Communication for Managers, Consultants, Sales Professionals, Trainers and Facilitators.
For the interactive version see: www.sketchingatwork.com

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