International Collaboration on Cultural Variation in Information Design

First of all, I want to emphasise that this opportunity has absolutely nothing to do with the MSc Programme itself, save that it is being hosted by a colleague from Stuttgart Media University, Frank Thissen, who is known to some of us.  Although I thought that some might be interested.  What follows is an announcement from Frank.  Anyone interested in participation should contact him directly.

Our next collaboration focuses on the role of culture specific stories, typical places and things and its  representation in information design products.

As Pierre Nora ( and Aleida Assmann stated every culture has specific places, things, heroes and stories that are important for the culture and the people to identify with, as well to present the values of the culture. Fairy tales are an example, but also buildings and places (e.g. the Eiffel tower in Paris, the Amselfeld fort he Serbs), or  heroes, persons or sometimes animals (the dragon in Chinese culture). The idea is that these cultural identification objects are present in the minds of the people and are used in information design, such as advertising, posters etc.

“As a term, cultural memory was first introduced by the German Egyptologists Jan Assmann in his book “Das kulturelle Gedächtnis”, who drew further upon Maurice Halbwachs’s theory on collective memory. Both Jan Assmann and more present-day scholars like Andreas Huyssen have identified a general interest in memory and mnemonics since the early 1980s, illustrated by phenomena as diverse as memorials and retro-culture. Some might see cultural memory as becoming more democratic, due to liberalization and the rise of new media. Others see cultural memory as remaining concentrated in the hands of corporations and states.
Because memory is not just an individual, private experience but is also part of the collective domain, cultural memory has become a topic in both historiography (Pierre Nora, Richard Terdiman) and cultural studies (e.g., Susan Stewart). These emphasize cultural memory’s process (historiography) and its implications and objects (cultural studies), respectively. Memory is a phenomenon that is directly related to the present; our perception of the past is always influenced by the present, which means that it is always changing.” (source: Wikipedia,

The collaboration could follow the following steps:

• Each group identifies typical stories, places and persons of the own culture and present it to the other groups. (October)
• The groups look for similarities and try to find out the values and backgrounds of the own and other cultural objects. (November)
• Each group searches for information products which uses these cultural identification objects and present it to the other groups. (November / December)
We discuss, what we can learn from it and how we can use the cultural identification objectss for information design.

Our semester starts on October 4th and I can start with the group working from 13th of October. I think it will be helpful to read some texts from Nora and Assmann. A first text yo can find here:
Could yo please look for your students to find other texts in English by Pierre Nora and about cultural rememberece places and objects.
I hope that there will be also people from Mexico, Bulgaria, Sri Lanka, China and Turkey in the collaboration.

Frank Thissen

A small project

I would like to invite you all – current students, alumni and all programme team members – to participate in a small exercise to map the distribution of participants in the eLearning programme.  This is part of an ongoing interest that Jen Ross and I have in what one might call “the spirit of place” in online distance learning.

I have set up an editable Google Map instance into which I would like people – participants in the programme from all over the world – to enter information about where they are, and about their own, local, familiar environment.  You probably don’t want to geotag your exact home address, for obvious reasons, but perhaps the district in which you live and / or work, the cafés that you frequent, the bus-stop where you begin the homeward commute, and so on.  Some of us have started the ball rolling by adding some links around the School of Education campus in central Edinburgh, to give a feeling of what one might do.

The Map

The map will be publicly viewable, but editing access will be by invitation only.  So can I ask those of you who want to participate – all of you – to email me ( with an email address associated with your Google account, and I will send you an invitation.  Once we see how this goes, I will ask Jen to link the map from the Hub main page.

I would be keen to hear from those who know about interactive mapping and who have suggestions about other things that we might do – real-time geotagging from our mobile phones perhaps.  🙂

Please join in.

Semester Starts Here

This is the first day of the first week of the first semester of a new year.  Welcome, and welcome back to everyone on the programme.  I saw a Tweet from Sian saying something about the virtual corridors being busy this morning – a nice way of putting it.  This certainly seems to be the case.  I hope that everyone has their lunch box, remembered their gym kit, and knows where they are supposed to be.  Sorry – I think I was just having a flashback to my worst fears about the start of new terms.  🙂  No such problems here.

There have already been some excellent conversations, and great meetings, and I for one am very much looking forward to the work to come.  I wish you all the very best for the coming year.