August 19, 2004

Cultural Perspectives on Asia

gbell3.jpg This was a talk given at Intel Research by Genevieve Bell on 8/19/2004 about technology usage in the emerging Asian market.
Interesting facts she led off with:
  • China has 300M phones, US has total population of 281M.
  • There is a disparity between China (300M) and India (60M) phone subscribers which is not explained simply by economics.

Her data set included 100 households in 19 countries. It wasn't strictly a random sample, but based on other Intel data on ~10,000 interviews, the results seemed typical for the various regions.

There are all kinds of barrier to technology adoption that are not familiar to the Western world. For example, electricity infrastructure is not assured. Power is unreliable across time, voltage and season. There is no such thing as "always-on". Labor is cheap, so automating things doesn't always make as much sense as in the United States. Internet connectivity can be horribly slow. Pollutions and hazards that aren't familiar to us are common in Asia: rodents, frogs, and bugs in the CPU.

Asian homes are smaller. Fewer people, fewer rooms, and less square footage. A current wireless router will cover lots of different family's living environment in Asia. Even in rural Asian environments living space per person is smaller. Americans tend to segregate rooms by function/technology, but this is not possible/not done in Asia. Asians identify their homes with words like "grace", "harmony", "humility", and "nature," and wanted their technology to support those ideas. Homes mean something very different in Asia.

We are more than just individuals. Asians don't reduce their goals and ideals to individualism. They view themselves in social contexts before they view themselves as an individual. Sharing is a good thing, so you don't necessarily buy more technology even if you can afford it. Privacy, as a result, is a very different in different cultures.

New usage models emerge in Asia. Many usage models are similar, but some that are different include the following. Education is about many different things: social mobility, social stability, cultural expectations, and cultural/religious training. Families are very important: chat, SMS, remote festival participation and remote social activities. Technology is a portal to government: the relationship of the individual and government is very different than in the U.S. : more involved on a daily basis, more impactful on daily life.

New technologies and religious practices co-exist in Asia. Cell-phones that point to Mecca, and calls to prayer from Medina. The Koran in Arabic and English read to you over the phone. A lunar almanac in China. Phones being blessed by Buddhist monks because they are part of your person. Online burials in China that allow people to be notified when someone is worshipping your ancestors.

What are the new questions Culture needs to analyzed, religion is important, communicating culture is hard to do with PowerPoint.

Posted by djp3 at August 19, 2004 10:05 AM | TrackBack (0)
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