culture & us

this is my first post. i have finally become part of the blogging universe. who knows, someday i may even join Orkutt, though thats highly unlikely.

today we had a super interesting class with Dr. Binod Agarwal, a cultural anthropologist. he made us realise how much our culture forms us, especially as Indians. I experienced a major view point shift. i always thought that technology is breaking the indian famliy system apart. but not so, he pointed out. infact, today we are closer than ever before thanks to the internet and mobile technology. most upper class indian families have one or more kids abroad. and though the physical distance is thousands of miles, the emotional distance is almost nil. your daughter can call and ask you a receipe when she feels like.

Dr. Agarwal has been working for many years in the area of social and development communications. and he confessed that sadly, he has experienced more frustration than anything else. most of such communication he felt, has failed. primary cause was the apathetic attitude of the government. one also cannot ‘force’ change, such communication should be persuasive, as opposed to coercive. three areas where such communication is desperately needed are education, healthcare, and agriculture.

the question is where do we as graphic designers fit in. i realised today that i need a masters in anthrolplogy and sociology if i am to really succeed in communication. we tend to get caught up in the surface ornamentation of colour, form and typography forgetting that it goes much deeper than that. he gave an interesting example. today in the state of gujarat there are numerous young widows. they work as domestic help in homes, where many are sexually abused by the men of the house. these are men with children and wife. nevertheless, almost daily these women are raped. this has led to a large number of them being HIV positive, and unwanted pregancies. the solution was to provide them with condoms and contraceptives. the problem was that if they were ever found with contraceptives, they would lose their job, and in some cases even their lives, in certain backward states like rajasthan. so the issue wwas how to communicate to these women, educate them on the use of contraceptives, yet ensure safety of their lives. to think women in our country live like this is heart breaking.

 we had an enlightening talk on the structure of the family as well. in kerala, there exists a Nair community. this is one of the few matriarchal societies in our world. women inherit property, the family name comes from the mother, women take major decisions. in the old days the woman had numerous partners who she could change as she chose. if she got pregnant, any one of her partners could claim to be the father and he would pay all the maternity bills. yet, after the birth of the child, he would have nothing to do with mother or child. this way of life affected the architecture of the home greatly. the ground floor was living, eating and storage. the first floor had bedrooms. each had its own exterior staircase to the outside world. this was so because each bedroom had its own share of nocturnal visitors, who could come and go in so-called secrecy.  interesting how society structures affect living structures. the building is much like a living organism, growing with its inhabitants, responding to their needs.

 culture is the framework in which we all operate. we decode information through that framework. for any communication to succeed,  you have to first understand that framework.

 interesting questions. is there anything like a universal symbol. i thought of the red cross, (which is now green incidentally) and may not be recogised by a remote tribal community. is there a universal colour…?

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One response to “culture & us

  1. great to see your daily thoughts of learning.
    I too write them in diary ..almost daily and share with my beloved

    you thought to do masters in anthrolplogy and sociology

    so reminding you of that and do you feel need for it still? what more do you feel need for – to be a better designer and good human being (which you want to be as i saw in your intro)

    warm regards
    Manish

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