Designing Informational Graphics for a Global Multi-Cultural Context

Designing Informational Graphics for a Global Multi-Cultural Context

Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-972-4.ch012
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With many e-learning courses, modules, and artifacts being created for global delivery, those who design informational graphics need to be aware of the global environment for which they are building. They need to be more aware of the diverse cultural milieu and learning needs of the global learners. Visual imagery contains embedded meanings that may have different cultural implications in different milieu. This chapter will explore strategies to create digital images that are culturally neutral or at least culturally non-offensive. Building a layer of self-explanatory depth will also be helpful—for digital imagery with higher transferability and global utility.
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Chapter Objectives

  • Define cultural influences on human identity

  • Explain how digital imagery may have cultural meanings and differing interpretations in its packaging

  • Address the importance of cultural sensitivities in the building of learning artifacts for potential global deployment and use

  • Investigate some universal cultural models

  • Describe the Internet and WWW culture

  • Explore ethical considerations in cultural aspects of digital imagery

  • Discuss how to enhance the transferability of digital imagery to global contexts

  • Introduce digital imagery use in e-learning in India as an exemplary case



Going global with digital imagery involves sharing materials in a variety of cultural, political, economic and social contexts. By default, anything posted on a website has the potential of going anywhere in the world based on the reach of the Internet and World Wide Web (WWW). Trainings and courses that are offered to all comers at universities often attract learners from various nations, people groups, demographics, and political persuasions. Research collaborations span institutions and often national boundaries as well. Too often, those who design such e-learning and related digital imagery go global as a default, without any conscious planning. Geopolitical strategies involve the reduction of local risk and the increase of local potential in terms of learning with the digital imagery.

Human identities are formed around social, national, historical, racial / ethnic, cultural, economical, religious / ethical, political, language – linguistic groups, educational factors, and gender identity, among others (see Figure 1). Added to this are the individual lived experiences which inform the respective interpretations of the world. Visual information is not value-neutral; rather, it is individually meaningful, context-dependent and perceptual. The audience changes how information is interpreted and accepted or not. In a presentation, a geopolitical strategist for a global corporation spoke of content as “the primary trust differentiator between international locales” (Edwards, 2004, n.p.). He went on to suggest that users of digital contents may assume intentionality in the distribution of offensive messages and depictions.

Figure 1.

Some cultural influences on human identity (Hai-Jew, 2009)


Conflicts may arise for a number of reasons with digital imagery. There may be misunderstandings of the image’s meaning. There may be disagreements in interpretations. There may be differences in points of view, political stances, and value systems. There may be contentious ideas about whether particular images should have been captured at all. The aesthetics of imagery may carry meanings that are offensive. There may be ambiguous gestures with differing meanings and implications across social and cultural boundaries.

The importance of gestural depictions has informed the design of anatomically based human hands in animations:

Stretching from spiritual significance (e.g. blessing, palm reading), over idiomatic expressions (e.g. .to put one's life in someone's hands.), to the act of shaking hands, not only for greeting but also for expressing feelings like gratefulness or sympathy, the central importance of hands is mirrored in a broad spectrum of symbolism (Albrecht, Haber & Seidel, 2003, p. 99).

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