VR: Art vs. Culture (was: Some Questions About Thinking)

Kenneth C. Jenks (kjenks@sd-www.jsc.nasa.gov)
Fri, 24 Mar 95 14:55:59 -0600

Jon Russell (jmr@ecs.soton.ac.uk) asked:
>Doesn't a visual representation of an object over come cultural and

>language problems by being language independent ??

Language problems, yes, but not cultural problems. If you use a trash
can ("dust bin" to you, Jon) to represent a place to discard things, a
person from another culture might see a round metal storage container,
which is correct, in a way, but could lead to misinterpretation.

As a further example, what structure do you visualize when I say the
word "home?" For someone like me from the American suburbs, it might
be a single-familty dwelling with a sloping roof and a driveway. To an
inner city youth, it's more likely an apartment. To someone from a
village in the tropics, it might be a multi-family structure with a
thatched or tin roof. There aren't too many homeless people using the
Internet, but it might have a different meaning to them. So if you're
designing a VR construct which allows the user to teleport back to a
"home state," what should the construct look like? A single family
dwelling with a sloping roof and a driveway? That shows cultural
jingoism, and it doesn't match the picture of "home" for most of the
people in the world. (I vote for ruby slippers, but that's just me.
Someone from another culture may not even catch the reference to
Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.)

Visual representation is very culturally dependent. Ask any
photographer or artist. In fact, a culture's art says a lot about that

-- Ken Jenks, NASA/JSC/SD5, Space Biomedical Research Institute
Work: kjenks@gothamcity.jsc.nasa.gov (713) 483-4368
Home: KenJenks@aol.com
Web: http://sd-www.jsc.nasa.gov/folks/kjenks.html

"And the men who hold high places
must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality
closer to the heart." -- Rush