UX Philosophy

Do personas denote cultural standards?

Personas are an incredibly useful modelling tool for representing complex networks of interaction and configuration. They enable designers to examine conceptual design ideals in a representational framework.

Behavioural patterns and mentalities of real individuals are embodied, with an eventual focus on the attainment of goals. As maintained by Cooper:
‘One of the most critical tasks in the modelling of personas is identifying goals and expressing them succinctly.’

Goals and emotional satisfaction

The capacity to strive towards an ultimate goal is critical for an individual’s psychological wellbeing. Goals provide individuals and communities with a sense of purpose and direction, allowing people to lead a more fulfilling lifestyle. When designing any entity it is crucial to take a sensitive, empathetic approach. If an individual is not or ceases to be emotionally satisfied by the entity in question, then its potential success is dwarfed in the fullest sense. As stated by Reddy:
‘Emotions are the most immediate, the most self-evident, and the most relevant of human orientations towards life’.
Although attempting to discern the logic behind individual, emotional experience is undoubtedly an equivocal task, it is possible to assess emotional valence. The way in which every emotion is either pleasant or unpleasant, and the means in which we can gauge a particular emotion’s intensity can be regarded as a reflection of one’s goals. Most psychologists would agree that goals are fundamentally linked to emotional state. In fact, contemplation of emotional wellbeing can be useful in determining aspects of goal structure that individuals had previously been unaware of. Thus in identifying goals during persona development it is essential to be compassionate and even attempt to identify inexplicit goals through sensitive analysis.

Emotions as culturally constructed phenomena

The notion that emotions are a culturally constructed phenomenon is a commonly held belief among constructionists. As communal beings, humans are sensitive to changes and undercurrents within the society that they operate. As highlighted by Rosaldo:
‘What individuals can think and feel is overwhelmingly a product of socially organised modes of action and talk.’
Societal circumstances and cultural values are a key determinant of emotional experience and therefore goals. A person’s aims and sense of their emotional wellbeing alters according to cultural standards. In addition to this idea, the behaviours and mentalities of individuals within a society are fundamental facets of what a culture is deemed to be. As suggested by the Anthropologist Geertz:
‘The focus on actions in everyday life and on verbal statements in their behavioural context, has become a powerful procedure for discovery of the underlying principles of cultural systems.’

The link between culture and design

Personas represent behavioural tendencies along with individual temperaments; therefore it is possible to suggest that they highlight cultural standards at a particular time. Thus, being culturally and therefore emotionally informed can be of assistance when formulating personas. Yet, personas can also act as informants of cultural values. Culture and design are intrinsically interlinked…this relationship is catalysed at the persona stage of design development. By Rebecca Scott (UX Intern)

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