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Experiential Elements of High-to-Low Context Cultures

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Kelly M. Murdoch-Kitt
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Intercultural design collaboration (IDC) is a cross-cultural exchange that can take place between visual, spatial, product and digital designers. IDC involves a shared approach to gathering information, making decisions, creative production, critique, and developing design solutions. IDC methodologies can provide designers with the cross-cultural experiences and competencies necessary to navigate an increasingly globalized landscape. This qualitative study combines Edward T. Hall's theories of high-and low-context cultures with Elizabeth Tunstall's 'Five Experiential Elements of Community' to explore the impacts and outcomes of IDC between two geographically distinct groups of students and faculty. The exploratory research in distance collaboration uses grounded theory to compare and analyse the experiences and interactions of independent groups of participants located in the United States and the Gulf Region over a period of four separate academic semesters. Findings indicate that a blended approach integrating 'communication' and 'design' into the methodology can increase cultural understanding, break down perceived barriers, and promote effective design outcomes. As such, this comparative analysis aims to share findings and recommendations with design educators while advancing IDC between students situated in seemingly disparate cultural contexts.