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The English project: Function and error in media research

Donald, S.H. and Richardson, I. (2002) The English project: Function and error in media research. Intersections: The Journal of Global Communications and Culture . pp. 155-166.


This paper uses observational research data collected in a Beijing school in 2001. The English project was a joint initiative between Australian educators and Tsinghua University in Beijing. It aimed to develop useable computer software (CD-ROMs or latterly media kiosks) to help second language learning and to enhance computer literacy in the primary school sector in the People's Republic of China (PRC). In the paper, the authors attempt to describe the use of functionality as a measure of communicative success, building on a theory of cultural function, intentionality, and the visibility of difference as co- determinate in the production of culturally specific and computer- mediated learning. 'Function' is used in this paper to describe the ideal state of a human-computer interaction, building on the notion that cultural functionality assumes that an interaction is fluent and has superseded the problems of cross-cultural and cross-generational translation. 'Intentionality' refers to the presence of human agency and intent in the creation of meaning. Although a statement of the obvious, the authors feel it is necessary to reiterate that whatever the slips between communicators, there are bases for perfect communicative possibility which have to be located and exploited in each communicative speech act. An invisible communication occurs within a field where such intentions are more or less common, whereas cross- cultural errors are likely to be visible and need to be re-invented through intentional and active re-manipulation of the communication in question. The authors contend that the level of cross-cultural functionality is embodied by the user and that mediation between computer and user becomes visible in satisfaction, frustration and (in)competency. The authors therefore suggest that intentional cross- cultural functionality is a core competency in the production of international media software.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: International Association for Media and Communication Research. Junior Scholars Network
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