Tuesday, April 01, 2003
The International Language...You Know...
Apparently the international gesture for "Stop! We mean you no harm" is gunfire. Definitely a hard, hard job, and I don't envy them one bit. Malcolm Gladwell, a writer for The New Yorker, has an excellent article that describes people who have a skill for not making these types of misjudgments. Also, do yourself a favor and buy his book, The Tipping Point.
This brings up a question I've had since the beginning of the war about these so-called PsyOps and InfOps. Perhaps this is just my parochial, colonial side coming out, but I wonder whether the images and messages we send to Iraqis are interpreted by them in the way that we intend for them to be interpreted. Even in the States, we seem to have communication and design problems, yet we all speak the same language and share more or less the same culture. For example, how many times have you walked the wrong way through a line at a store, pushed on a door instead of pulled, or tried to click on what looked like a link but turned out to be just underlined or otherwise highlighted text.
Question 1 is: Are the principles of intuitive design universal? That is, if you received one of these flyers, would you understand exactly what to do and how to do it right?
Question 2: Will the literal message on the pamphlets be understood as messages of safety, even apart from the issue of whether people believe them to be a deceptive trick?
I wonder because Americans have 60 years of media saturation such that we are all hardened, embittered veterans with many near-intuitive interpretations of these types of commercials. Might Iraqis think of them as junk mail? Is it reasonable to expect that the types of shared understandings Americans have for these advertisements would be shared by the Iraqi people? Perhaps there is a psychology expert reading this somewhere to help us out.
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