Determine Democracy in Web Design

Determine Democracy in Web Design

Rowena Li (Bayside High School Library, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7598-6.ch124

Abstract

This chapter serves as an introduction to apply seven indicators in examining democracy on web interface design. It introduces a new measuring instrument to assist in determining a nation's democracy level so that democracy can be measured not only by traditional methods (surveys, case studies, questionnaires, interviews, and observations) but also through the study of web interface design. As a result, it extends cultural and political studies into the fields of human-computer interaction and user interface design.
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Introduction

Surveys are the traditional and most widely used research instrument for measuring democracy. It is often used to measure the progress and decline of freedom and democracy in political rights and civil liberties experienced by individuals. As the Internet has become one of the most important vehicles of communication, and websites one of the most popular channels for information dissemination, a question has often been asked: in what way, if any, does a website, especially its homepage, carry its country’s cultural traits and represent its nation’s democracy level?

Evidently, web interface design reflects not only the linguistic aspects of a nation, but also its cultural characteristics, such as values, norms, and ethics. When we examine a country’s cultural and social attributes represented on the web, one of the most important areas to consider is a country’s democracy level, since power and authority create a special social structure for a society’s culture.

Hofstede (1980) defined five primary cultural dimensions for measuring cultural differences. Power distance became the first dimension. Subsequently, Marcus (2005) and Marcus and Gould (2000) extended Hofstede’s cultural theory to web interface design by identifying online indicators for the five cultural dimensions. Power distance received seven cultural indicators. These seven indicators, as well as three others (Gould, Zakaria, & Yusof, 2000; Singh, Zhao, & Hu, 2003, 2005), were statistically analyzed and validated in Li’s (2009) study. Li concluded that special title, monumental building, authority figure, symbol of nationalism or religion, link to information about the leaders of the organization, information arranged according to management hierarchy, and symmetric layout are valid indicators for measuring democracy on web interface design.

However, how exactly can web interface design be measured to detect a nation’s democracy level with these seven indicators?

This article serves as an introduction to apply these seven indicators in examining democracy on web interface design. It introduces a new measuring instrument to assist in determining a nation’s democracy level, so that democracy can be measured not only by traditional methods (surveys, case studies, questionnaires, interviews, and observations), but also through the study of web interface design. As a result, it extends cultural and political studies into the fields of human-computer interaction and user interface design.

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