Facilitating Dynamics of Focus Group Interviews in East Asia: Evidence and Tools by Cross-Cultural Study
Jung-Joo Lee, Kun-Pyo Lee


Facilitating cultural sensitivity has become a critical issue in user experience design. Although many design solutions attempt to take cultural differences into account, there have been few studies focusing on the influence of culture on user research methods. Since many user research methods popularly used in design have been developed in Europe and North America, one may question how these methods work in completely different cultures. It is particularly worth investigating how focus group interviews work in East Asia where people have different communication styles and a weaker participatory discussion culture than in Western cultures. We explored how a focus group interview works differently in East Asia by conducting cross-cultural experiments. The results of a comparative experiment in the Netherlands and South Korea showed passive participation and poor member-to-member interactions from Korean participants. These findings led us to develop tools to facilitate the group dynamics of focus group interviews in East Asia: “pre-activities” to break the ice and build membership, “Mini-me dolls” to support indirect communication and facilitate playfulness, and an imaginary setting of a “TV home shopping show” to empower participants to express their ideas. We tested these tools in the focus group interview with a group of South Koreans to discuss their real usage and potentials.

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