Cross-cultural influences on the semantics ascribed to assistive technology product and its envisaged user

Culture is an important variable when considering the communication of meaning through an artefact. A literature review has highlighted distinct differences in the cognitive processing that delivers perception between individuals from individualist and collectivist societies. The projected growth in Assistive Technology (AT) online marketing suggests industrial designers need to be more aware of the influence that diverse cultures may have on consumer’s perception of an AT product attributes. Artefact semantic language is the vehicle to deliver design intent during an online user-product visual interaction. Little is published about how cultural differences in cognition relate to semantic preferences of AT product attributes and their users. This study aims to evaluate visual interaction of an AT product and its perceived user by individuals from culturally distinct countries; United Kingdom (individualist) and Pakistan (collectivist). A survey was conducted with first-year undergraduate students (N=281) from both countries, to evaluate their perception of a conventional attendant wheelchair. A Semantics Differential (SD) scale was employed having sixteen pairs of adjectives defining functional, meaning, and usability attributes of the product. The mean, standard deviation values were acquired for each pair of adjective and compared between both groups by performing appropriate statistical tests. In results, diverse cultures did not appear to have overtly influenced the meanings ascribed to the product, which was unexpected. Following statistical analysis minor but critical differences were found for some pairs of adjectives (bulky-compact, heavy-light), with p-value of less than 0.05 indicating the differences. Studies are planned to further investigate outcomes and validate results.