An iConji Communications Workshop

Colorado State University, Office of International Programs

On April 7, 2011 Colorado State University's (CSU) Office of International Programs hosted an evening in which forty students representing more than a dozen countries came together for three hours to facilitate creation, conversation, and learning about cultural identity through art expression and communication.

The evening began with an introduction to the history of iConji, and a demonstration of how to use iConji with Facebook. The inventor of iConji, Kai Staats, assisted by graphics artist Bennett Scott, then provided an introduction to the structural elements of an iConji character and guidelines on how to create a new character. Participants were given a list of words to choose from which were not yet in the existing vocabulary, or they could choose one on their own. For more than an hour, groups sketched images to represent words and concepts and then shared them with the entire assembly. Open conversation unfolded as to whether or not the drawings were universal, that is, if they would be recognized worldwide.

Megan Schoenecker, International Programs Assistant at CSU offers “The cross-cultural aspects of the event invoked interesting insights into image association as it varies from culture to culture. The event brought these differences to the surface, sparked great discussion, and manifested understanding among the group."

Event Summary | Full Press Release

Some of the discussions that unfolded were as follows:
  • The "right" hand has been equated as "good" and the "left" hand with bad for millennia. The Latin roots for "dexterous" and "sinister" refer to "right, correct" and "left, wrong" accordingly. In French, "à droit," or in English "adroit" means dexterous or skillful.
  • "Thumbs-up" and "thumbs-down" may not be a good thing in all countries!
  • Does a neck tie represent dressing-up in all countries? The dishdash is in some cultures the most dressed up one can be, while the neck tie is a Western style relatively recently introduced for business, but not formal occasions.
  • Does the $ sign represent "money" in all countries? Not too long ago, the British pound was the dominant currency in the world. What happens if the Chinese yuan becomes the dominant currency, will all U.S. computer keyboards ship with the yuan symbol in addition to the U.S. dollar sign?
  • In the effort to create the characters for "victory" and "defeat" one of the participants drew sketches of a sword stabbed into the ground, both with and without a helmet on top. Drawing from historic battlefield etiquette, which would you believe meant the soldier was yet alive, awaiting removal by the medical brigade?

4 Starting Points for Your Own Workshop
  1. We encourage you to download our presentation template in order to jump-start the design of your own iConji Communications Workshop. Modified the slides to suit your focus and needs. In particular, the questions asked on slides 12-14 can be modified to support the theme of your Workshop. Slide 15 (vocabulary list) should be revised to introduce new words or word pairs not found in the current vocabulary, or perhaps to bring focus to a particular vocabulary theme. The final slide should be modified to provide your own contact information.
  2. We offer a suggested timeline (PDF) for your Workshop.
  3. Be certain to download the most current template for designing your original iConji characters from our iConji Artist Pages.
  4. Please contact us for guidance, publicity, brainstorming, and the potential of one of our staff members coming to help facilitate your event.