Measuring Democracy on Web Interface Design

Measuring Democracy on Web Interface Design

Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch269
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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.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Power Distance: Measures the degree of equality or inequality between people in a society.

Collectivism vs. Individualism: Measures the relationship among individuals. In an individualistic culture, individuals value more on individualism; while in a collectivist culture, individuals view more on community and society.

Masculinity vs. Femininity: Measures the degree to which a culture views its gender roles. Masculine cultures: tend to view males as tough conquerors and females as tender homemakers, while feminine cultures tend to reduce these gender differences.

Indulgence vs. Restraint: Measures the gratification for enjoyment and fun. Indulgence indicates the degree at which a society allows for relatively free gratification of basic and natural human drives related to enjoying life and having fun, while restraint stands for the degree of a society that suppresses gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms.

Long-Term vs. Short-Term Orientation: Measures the tendency of perseverance or quick results. Societies with a long-term orientation show a strong tendency to invest and thriftiness to achieve long-term results, while societies with a short-term orientation have great respect for traditions and tend to achieve quick results.

Uncertainty Avoidance: Measures the extent people feel about uncertain or ambiguous situations.

Culture: A set of values, norms, and ethics shared by a group of people. It distinguishes one group from another.

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