Picking Designs

July 9, 2008

We are trying to find a design that reflects the concept. Using text only, because private issues can be really offensive when seen in images for Emirati culture, and also because of the simplicity of it, we are trying to create something that is visibly a conversation in both arabic and english, connected in statement and response, and disconnected through the actual cultural differences of the statements.

Our Survey Results

July 8, 2008

Our survey results are really interesting. Like with the photographs, we ruled out aspects of similarity and focused on the differences. The most striking were:
– All of the Emirati found religion, faith and spirituality to be very open parts of their lives, while Americans noted that these three things were private parts of their lives.
– Overall, many of the Americans listed body/appearances, and almost all listed political opinions and opinions of others as vocal, public parts of their lives, while most of the Emirati listed these three attributes to be private parts of their lives.
Our problem now is what to do with this information.

It’s interesting how Americans are secular in nature because of the government and history, while in the UAE, Islam is the ultimate law, and religious is essential in the government. The fact that in the meantime, Americans are openly vocal about non-emotional issues such as politics and even their opinions of others says a lot about the value that is put on said opinions. On the other hand, that Emirati are not open about their opinions in public indicates a different kind of dialogue, and a different method of reflection.


July 7, 2008

There is definitely a sense of urgency today to solidify and finish our project. This morning we pulled together pictures of what we personally and culturally found to be okay in public and what we found to be private issues.

From there, we pointed out which photographs made us uncomfortable, and which photographs are culturally taboo for each of us.

What came out of our dialogue today:

We go through similar issues. What is right or wrong is up to us. What creates tension is when we choose what and when we make things public or private. Our two cultures have different standards of privacy.  Sometimes, people force their public issues into other people’s private lives, crossing the boundaries of tolerance.

We are trying to make a point by creating tension with our photographs, and to see what comes out of it. Fulfilling stereotypes.


July 6, 2008

Baltimore has a very different problem than Dubai. Baltimore has been left to stew in its circular drug-related poverty by the rest of the state and the rest of our country. Baltimore barely exists on the map because the people and culture barely exist to the rest of the world. It is a mostly vacant city, a ghost town. It is a city that has been given up on. It is a city that has given up. Poverty is endless in Baltimore because political and cultural psyches. So what is Baltimore’s identity, compared to Dubai? Baltimore is full of empty lots, forgotten and ignored space. Dubai is full of empty lots with plans and promises of use. Will we even discuss Baltimore, is Baltimore relevant to Dubai, and is it relative to our project? 


July 6, 2008

In this city is a growing outside culture that completely contradicts local tradition and standards. Western culture, fueled by tourism and money, seems to be cultivating Dubai’s rapid growth. There is conflicting interest. What is right, what is wrong? Is Emirati culture being lost amongst the great dream to become the most modern city in the world? Dubai is fascinating to foreigners because of its sudden adaptation. Buildings are grown overnight. People have come to Dubai to see… The Palms? The Burj Al Arab? What about the Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world? Do people come to shop? Do people come for the parties, the nightlife? Or do they come to experience the local culture, learn about pearl-diving and see women covered in black robes and men with aviators dressed in white? Are any of these things Dubai right now? Do any of these things represent the Emirati? When a city transforms this quickly, it must have an identity in mind.  All of these parts of Dubai are weaving into each other, creating a new entity, but it is at the expense of a culture rich in tradition. There is a difference between tolerance and acceptance. How far does tolerance go, and should acceptance ever happen? When the city agreed to turn down the volume of the call to prayer for the ex-patriots complaining about noise, were they compromising their own standards for a more global philosophy?

July 3, 2008

The sound doesn’t work with the program versions we have, along with the fact that we are seriously doubting the conviction behind our project. We’re starting over. Again.

Universal Language

July 2, 2008

After a short discussion about what happened the day before, it looks like we are back on the track of communication as a project. We’ve been caught by the idea of language, and how that represents cultures. We’ve discussed before that language and translation will always be filters, but if we could somehow remove said filters, there is a possible universal language that could result. If we go back to the video idea, and had two to four people having a conversation, each in their own languages, understanding each other, could we possibly display that through the actual video, and sound as well? We’ve decided to go with mixing the languages to create one universal language that is not orally understood by anyone, but understood with the help of the video.

What will happen when we take away those filters of perception and media?

What if we had two people from opposite sides of the world talking to each other in completely different languages? Would they understand through a common language of gestures and facial expressions? When you go to a foreign country, where nobody speaks your language and you cannot speak theirs, you tend to rely on body language, tone, and expression. It’s possible to communicate without words. Even translation is a filter, meaning can be lost without complete knowledge of idioms, phrases, structure, grammar, everything. What if we had two people who could not verbally communicate try to communicate? What would happen? For example, two people log into a chat room. They can’t understand each other, so they begin to draw pictures, exaggerate their facial expressions, and point to things to talk to each other. They are stripping communication down to basic human expression. Is this something that actually exists or have we decided through our own filters that it does?


Today has been the hardest day yet. For various reasons, it seemed like we finally came to a conclusion yesterday that we were going to pursue video, and today we aren’t sure anymore. Esther woke up this morning unsure of the concept’s veracity and structure, which she is very worried about, and Shemsa and Maryam are both anxious to get started. I, Dierdre, have come in hungover from the activities the night before, something I am incredibly ashamed of. All of this uncertainty and my personal inability to be mentally coherent is causing a lot of tension. Shamsa and Maryam are both really upset with my behavior, and it looks like some of the other American girls are also having problems performing, which is causing a very big conflict amongst all groups. We are realizing some of the biggest differences between our groups that we have never really addressed before. While both Esther and I are very  conceptual first and foremost with our work, and are focused on getting it perfect, which may or may not be the result of going to MICA. On the other hand, Shamsa and Maryam are both interested in the production and actual design of our piece, and they are less interested in the concept, which may or may not be the result of going to Zayed. Neither way is right or wrong, but at this point it is causing conflict in whether we should move forward with the project we decided on yesterday or sit back and continue brainstorming the concept. I know they are also upset because of my unprofessionalism, which I have to address, but am really ashamed to do so. We aren’t talking, we aren’t even sitting in the same rooms. We talked with Bernand, Peter, and Nancy about it without the Emirati students, and it looks like drinking will be something that we have to talk to each other about, considering how much a part of Western culture it is and how much it isn’t a part of Emirati culture. The word hang-over doesn’t even exist in Arabic.

June 30, 2008

Our group has had a lot of problems connecting. Our second day and we are already back to square one. We decided that we were going to do a video project with two people speaking to each other through screens on opposite sides of the room. Initially we were thought about it being two of us, but we almost immediately decided that we would try to use real people that we found on the internet, maybe, or other people in the group who spoke different languages. Our project stalled, however, when we couldn’t figure out what exactly we wanted the project to say.

 How does the third person  experience the installation? What is  the message to them? If they are  standing within the conversation,  can they participate, or are they just watching? How does the third  person participate? Is it their job to interpret the conversation for themselves, and if so, what is the interest in it? Is this a live  installation, with real people speaking through the screens to the people in the room? 
We’ve also talked about using Icons or Pictograms to also explain our concept. At the same time, we wonder if Pictograms are universal or if they vary from culture to culture, or even if they will connect with everyone, because they are so indicative of Internet culture. And if that is so, will live video also reach a large audience? Right now we are wondering who we are trying to reach. 




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