[Foundation-l] Cultural awareness and sensitivity

Fred Bauder fredbaud at fairpoint.net
Tue Jun 8 01:47:31 UTC 2010

Native Americans used to compare European Americans to spiders.


That referred to our quick adaptive nature that was not rooted in
tradition. We seem to be very clever and good at things, but not
committed to anything. I think the problem has probably grown much worse
as the broad spectrum of our activities impacts traditional societies.
Not only is our music different, but there is a hundred kinds of it;
likewise our other cultural artifacts.

I suspect users from many cultures do better in an environment that is
sheltered from the full impact of Western culture.

Fred Bauder

> To avoid further disrupting discussion of interlanguage links and
> usability, I'll address the cultural problems separately now. I must
> admit, though, that in a discussion where we seemed to have agreed
> (rightfully so) that a 1% click rate was significant enough to warrant
> serious consideration, I was disappointed that someone could then be so
> callous about the need for cultural sensitivity because it most directly
> impacts "only 0.55% of the world population" in this case. There is no
> meaningful difference in order of magnitude there.
> We have significant distortions in the makeup of our community that
> affect our culture. There are quite a few groups that are seriously
> underrepresented, in part because our culture comes across as unfriendly
> to them at best. I talked about African-Americans because it's what was
> applicable in that particular situation and I happen to have some
> familiarity with the issues. It could just as well have been Australian
> Aborigines or another cultural group that has issues with our community.
> I'm not as prepared to explain those concerns, but I would welcome
> people who can educate us about such problems. It's legitimate to be
> wary of things that promote American cultural hegemony, which is another
> distortion, but that's not really warranted when the concern relates to
> a minority culture in the US.
> Some people seem to have gotten hung up on the issue of intent. I didn't
> say there was any intent, by the community or individuals, to exclude
> certain groups or to create a hostile environment for them. I actually
> tried to be as careful as possible not to say that. The point is that
> even in the absence of intent, it's possible for our culture to appear
> hostile to such groups. We didn't have any intent to be hostile toward
> living people, either, yet we've had a long struggle to cope with the
> consequences of that impression created by our culture.
> Consider the principle of not "biting" newcomers, which relates to a
> similar problem. It's not about the intent of the person doing the
> "biting", it's about the impact on those who encounter it. We need to be
> more welcoming to people, and striving for more cultural awareness is
> part of that.
> --Michael Snow
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