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Unisex toilets – to(i)-let or not to(i)-let

September 2, 2010

Equality between men and women, especially in the workplace, has prompted the emergence of unisex toilets. In America and in the UK, unisex toilets have become commonplace in workplaces, and is slowly being introduced in public places such as in restaurants, bars and shopping centres.

In BBC News UK , a man, Mr Glaser, sued a group of women for violation of his civil and privacy rights. The women had helped themselves with the men’s toilet after being tired of waiting in the long queues of women’s toilets during a San Diego rock concert. Mr Glaser claimed that he was unable to relieve himself in front of the women, causing him deep embarrassment and distress. However, the case was thrown out of court for being “frivolous”.

Although shared toilets have long been commonplace at home, I personally would be uncomfortable at the thought of sharing a public toilet with strangers from the opposite sex. In my opinion, it is an invitation for sex offenders to commit a crime in public places much more easily. This is of serious concern as toilets are used not only by adults, but by teenagers and children too. Safety is paramount.

In an article in The Daily Telegraph , a lady was followed by a stranger and sexually assaulted in a unisex toilet at a popular Sydney bar. Imagine how easy it is for offenders to access the toilets and choose their victims. How can male or female feel safe in unisex toilets? Who will be liable if anything happens? Why change something that already works?

Say NO to Unisex toilets.

References :
Talking Point: Would you welcome unisex office toilets?
May 4, 2000
BBC News
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/726715.stm

Sydney unisex toilet sex attacker charged over Ivy nightclub incident
October 30, 2009
The Daily Telegraph
http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-unisex-toilet-sex-attacker-charged/story-e6freuy9-1225792825189

Sex and the single can
April 26, 2000
BBC News
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/727005.stm

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Can you really put a price on culture?

September 2, 2010

I love looking at beautiful things, particularly designer stationery and paintings done with great skills and attention to details. Studying design, I appreciate that the process of producing a beautiful piece of work is never easy. I don’t claim to be an art critic but sometimes, I think art is simply overrated.

In April 2009, the painting by Paul Cezanne titled Bords de la Marne, sold for $16 million. Not $1.6 million. SIXTEEN MILLION. That is a huge sum of money. I find it utterly ridiculous that the Art Gallery of NSW would pay that much for a piece of painting on canvas.

This painting by Jackson Pollock, titled no.5, 1948, is another example of a painting with an exaggerated price tag. It was sold to a Hollywood mogul – David Geffen – in November 2006 for a hefty $140 million – making it the most expensive painting ever sold. Some art critics and art investors may argue that the price is justified, in that it is an investment on a medium that has made a significant impact in its time in the art industry. Jackson Pollock introduced the ‘Dripping technique’ where he ‘paints’ without touching the canvas. His technique involves dripping and splashing paint freely onto the canvas. His action painting technique is still the talk of the art industry worldwide to this day.

There is no doubt that both Cezanne and Pollock have unique skills that are hard to find these days, and it is a piece of culture that should be preserved, but I think in this current economic times, that money would have been better spent on art education programs and nurturing upcoming talents. Perhaps, with better support for young artists, there could be plenty more like them, and art need not cost a fortune.

References :

http://blogs.smh.com.au/entertainment/archives/entertainmentblogindex/021384.html

http://www.theartwolf.com/10_expensive.htm

http://www.yardwear.net/blog/2006/11/06/Jackson%20Pollock%20No%205%201948.aspx

http://understandingpaintings.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/no-5-1948-jackson-pollock-worlds-most-expensive-painting/

MhNation
March 16, 2009
Deviantart
http://mhnation.deviantart.com/journal/23738759/

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Does culture shape technology?

September 2, 2010

We now live in the age of technology. There is an increase in the number of people reliant on mobile phones and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with each other, television and iPods to keep us entertained, computers and the internet to do business. Technology is ever-changing, but so is culture. Which one influences the other?

A study by Genevieve Bell, an anthropologist that works at Intel Research, has found that technology tends to adapt to a certain culture that fit into existing patterns of behaviour. One example she gave, was how manufacturers of mobile phones designed mobile phones that takes into account the prayer times of Muslim users. It includes a function that reminds them of prayer times, orients them towards Mecca and stops incoming calls in that 20 minute block of time during prayers.

In Japan, space is limited, resulting in privacy issues. According to the article in TopNews.in, manners are also a way of culture in Japan, as they seek to make public places pleasant for everyone, especially in confined spaces such as a train. Talking loudly on mobile phones are frowned upon, which is why text messaging is the preferred mode of communicating in Japan, rather than talking on the mobile phone. This has influenced the design of mobile phones and the services provided by mobile phone carriers in Japan. Their mobile phones feature buttons that are easier to type, with screens that allow long text messages, with cheaper rates per message sent.

It is nice to know that culture takes precedence over technology, with consideration for the usual way of life for each culture.
The world would be a boring place without identity.

References :

Japan’s railway companies try to keep passengers’ manners on track
by Mohit Joshi – March 19, 2009
http://www.topnews.in/japans-railway-companies-try-keep-passengers-manners-track-2141596

Does technology change culture or culture change technology?
by Tim Finin – July 10, 2006
http://ebiquity.umbc.edu/blogger/2006/07/10/does-technology-change-culture-or-culture-change-technology/

For Technology, No Small World After All
by Michael Erard – May 6, 2006
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/06/technology/circuits/06cult.html?ex=1399176000&en=2fbed84d2b46d2c6&ei=5007

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Freedom of Speech

September 2, 2010

Recently, Facebook has been the target of a ban by Pakistan after a competition to draw caricatures of Prophet Muhammad offended the Muslims and caused a huge uproar among protesters in Pakistan. The Lahore High Court ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to ban the use of Facebook throughout the country. By the next day, the ban had expanded to include YouTube. Such is the seriousness of the issue.

The person behind the offensive competition was Molly Norris, a Seattle-based cartoonist. The offending contest was launched in April in ‘reaction to the decision by the Comedy Central network to edit a portion of its “South Park” television program that was to have depicted the prophet Muhammad in a bear costume.’ (Hill, 2010), and was to have the deadline day declared “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” This caused an even bigger outcry from the public.

Religion is a highly sensitive topic, and certainly the freedom of speech rights of Americans do not apply in this kind of topic. While I don’t agree with what Molly Norris has done, I don’t think that Facebook should be the one to take the blame. Why should Facebook be shut out from the whole of Pakistan for something that one of its users did?

As of February 2010, there were more than 400 million Facebook users, and the numbers are rising. This social network allows people to control their own content. With that many users, there is no way Facebook can monitor each and every one of the postings on it. The responsibility is up to the users. Postings on Facebook should not be taken too personally, After all, if there is something you don’t fancy in there, you always have the freedom to ignore or get away from that site.

Tech News World: Social Networking
by Sidney Hill – May 20, 2010
http://www.technewsworld.com/story/70038.html

Mashable – Social Media
by Barb Dybwad – February 2, 2010
http://mashable.com/2010/02/04/facebook-400-million/

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Colour Sensitive

September 1, 2010

Colour is a reflection of our identity, personality, culture and emotions. It has the power to affect us psychologically, whether we are conscious of it or not. In different cultures, colours have symbolic meanings attached to a certain culture. One good example as mentioned in Truly Madly Deeply is the colour white.

In Asian cultures such as Japan and China, white is symbolic of death, and is the colour worn during funerals. On the contrary, Western cultures associate white with purity, peace and harmony, often wearing white for special joyous occasions such as weddings. In the olden days, the bride often wears a red dress to signify prosperity and happiness. Wearing white at weddings would be unforgivable in those days. Today, however, this tradition and custom is blurred and not followed strictly. With globalisation and the increasing cross-cultural communication made possible, people are becoming more aware of the different cultures and customs that exist, and are becoming more open to variations in their own customs.

These days, even Chinese brides wear white wedding gowns, regardless of what white traditionally meant in their culture.

In the design world, it is important to consider the history of colour and what it means to different groups of cultures, as it has siginificant impact on how a brand is perceived. A lot of money would have gone into marketing a brand or a product, so there is no room for failure in terms of appealing to its target audience and getting a positive response.

A Japanese manufacturer learnt the hard way about the impact of choosing the wrong product colour. Their attempt to sell black scooters in India were met with a very poor response due to the fact that in India, black is often the colour associated with death. Superstitious mothers were forbidding their sons not to purchase black scooters as it was considered bad omen. However, the Japanese manufacturer changed tactics and introduced other colours, sales improved dramatically, proving that colour does matter.

Although people are more forgiving and open about traditional custom not being followed these days, it is still wise to be sensitive to what colours mean across different cultures. The last thing we would want to do is to offend someone. Be mindful. Be colour sensitive.

References:

Truly Madly Deeply
Cross Cultural Meanings of Colour in Brand Design
April 28, 2010
http://webdesign.about.com/od/colorcharts/l/bl_colorculture.htm

USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education)
April, 1997
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1272/is_n2623_v125/ai_19313513/

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Social Networking : Time Wasters

August 25, 2010

Modern technology is evident everywhere in the world today. Almost everyone uses it. They make it easier to connect with friends and family no matter which part of the world they are in. But there is mounting evidence that it is doing more damage than good to our society.

Social networking media such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace claim to socially connect us to millions of users globally, but it does not give a real world perception of the less fortunate in today’s society. The less fortunate – the homeless and victims of natural disasters, for instance – do not have the opportunity to connect to these networks.

Technology and social networking is not all bad, it is the obsession with them that can waste a lot of time. People need to readdress this problem by giving back to society via volunteer work such as helping out in soup kitchens where you can directly communicate with people on a personal level and make a real difference in their lives – something which you cannot do behind a computer screen.

Going out in the real world and volunteering your services to charity can make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged people as well as make them realise that they do not need to obsess over technology and there are far more important needs to address that will have a more meaningful impact on society.

In a survey conducted by The Nielsen Company, it was found that global web users spent an average of five and a half hours per person in February 2010 on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. This is an increase of two hours from the same time last year, and the numbers keep rising.

Social Networking icons

If each person can give up an hour and a half a week to assist in meaningful charity work, time that would otherwise have been wasted on social networking, this additional manpower can be significant in making a difference in people’s lives whether it is simply to lend a listening ear or to help sort clothing and food for the less fortunate.

After a tragedy such as the 2009 Victorian bushfires, there is often a number of web forums and blogs that pop up to talk about the tragedy. Would it not be better, if the time and effort is spent communicating directly with charity groups and spending time helping to distribute emergency supplies to those in need?

When you think of people who have lost so much, like homes and even families and friends in tragedies like the 2009 Victorian bushfires, it is saddening to see the people spending so much time and money on unimportant, unnecessary things. Life is short, and we should live it to the fullest, engage with real people, spend more time in a meaningful way.

There is a saying ‘You never know how good you have it till you have lost everything’. It should not take a tragedy or people to hit rock bottom to realise that people and nature are more important than material things. We can replace things, but we can never replace the people we love and value. People need to understand this and take action before it is too late.

References :

Nielsen Wire
March 19, 2010
http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/global/global-audience-spends-two-hours-more-a-month-on-social-networks-than-last-year/

Vision: Insights and New Horizons – And They All Lived Technologically Ever After
by David F. Lloyd
Spring 2007 Issue
http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/article.aspx?id=2954

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Smoking Culture

August 21, 2010

In 1950s America, The Guardian UK describes smoking as the “epitome of cool and glamour“. Screen legends such as James Dean and Audrey Hepburn helped perpetual the “cool” culture and cigarettes were “cheap, legal and socially acceptable“. One of the most iconic advertisements was Philips Morris’ Malboro Man with the tagline “For man’s flavour come to Marlboro Country“.

After the link between lung cancer and other diseases to smoking, there has been a shift in the perception of the smoking culture. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, Manly and Mosman have now banned outdoor smoking. However Leidchardt mayor will not follow stating “There’s a strong cultural affinity for a lot of Italians with having a coffee and a cigarette“. The reinforces the stereotype that certain nationalities (e.g. Italians) have smoking as an integral part of their culture.

However as reported in The Culture of Smoking, poor African nations have seen a “surge in smoking is seen in young people under the age of 20 that constitute the majority of the continents population“. What draws them into the smoking culture? The article states “It starts with peer pressure, being exposed to second hand smoking, having parents and best friends who smoke. And for some, just simply to be cool“.

With the known health risks and the social stigma in society, will the smoking culture even vanish? I feel the smoking culture will always be part of current society. Even with certain drugs (e.g. heroin) made illegal, there are always people willing to find them and try. Cigarettes are much more readily available and it will appeal to a certain demographic of people.

References :

Smokers kicked to the kerb – then all over town
by Josephine Tovey- March 19, 2010
Sydney Morning Herald
http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/wellbeing/smokers-kicked-to-the-kerb–then-all-over-town-20100318-qifl.html

When smoking was cool, cheap, legal and socially acceptable
by Jason Rodrigues- April 1 2009
The Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/apr/01/tobacco-industry-marketing

The Culture of Smoking
by Henok Semaegzer Fente, November 30 2009
http://www.voanews.com/zimbabwe/news/special-reports/The-Culture-of-Smoking-78153847.html