Cultural Preferences and Brain Modality: Implications for the Design of Silicon-based Tools

Rolfe Faste, Stanford Design Division

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University October 23, 1991


The human brain is composed of two halves which function in complimentary modes. The left Mode appears to favor logical, verbal, abstract manupulation of information while the Right favors intuitive, kinesthetic, and sensual processes. While all humans have access to both capabilities, cultures impose different preferences on how these capabilities are utilized. The West has traditionally favored the Left Mode, and the Orient the Right. While all institutions reflect these preferences, they are literally made visible by the various art forms of each culture. An examination of these art forms will reveal, for example, that Europeans and Americans value content over form, while the reverse is true in Japan. In this seminar I will sketch out some of these rarely considered meta-issues and how they pertain to man's interaction with tools and to computers in particular.


Rolf Faste is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Product Design Program. In addition to courses in Product Design, he teaches Ambidextrous Thinking to Engineering Graduate Students and is responsible for the undergraduate ME courses in Visual Thinking. Prior to coming to Stanford in 1984, he was Professor in the School of Art at Syracuse University. His scholarly interests revolve around issues pertaining to creativity, in particular the role of perception as influenced by technology and culture. This past winter and spring was spent researching these issues while he was assigned to Stanford's new Center for Technology and Innovation in Kyoto, Japan.


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