Arabic Tivo

Interesting comment by Jerry Kindall on a post at Plasticbag on the commonalities in the menuing systems used for both Tivo and iPod:

“Hierarchical pull-down menus have always “flown out” to the right too. It goes back to the fact that we read left-to-right, and when we “turn a page” we move to the right. I wonder if an Arabic TiVo or iPod would provide the sense of moving leftward through menus. As an aside, you know that famous Japanese tidal wave print? The Japanese “read” paintings right to left. Flip the image horizontally in an image editor to get the European version of how it seems to them. (The wave looks a lot more like its looming when you do this.)”

0 comments
  1. Kevan said:

    “Art historian Heinrich Wolfflin theorized that audiences scan pictures left to right, as if reading. Consequently, a character moving left to right can appear to be empowered; whereas, a character moving right to left can appear to be laboring against the grain.”

    Does this mean that western audiences should really be watching Japanese films in mirrors? (Or do directors know this, and flip them for the export market?)

  2. paul said:

    There was an interesting biography on Dr. Suess the other night that highlighted Ted’s insistance that the character’s actions in his books always ran left to right, to train young readers to follow the page in that direction.

  3. Rob K said:

    Actually, they’re not telling the whole story. Chinese and Japanese text goes first top to bottom, then right to left. Western text goes first left to right then top to bottom. So there are two differences in orientation.

    Any modern Japanese person deals with two orientations: top-bottom, right-left OR left-right, top-bottom. You’ll find magazines both directions. You’ll find signs both directions. You’ll find CD inserts both directions. The more something is read and not experienced, the more likely it is to be the old style. Books are old style.

    There’s an entirely separate issue brought up, which is right-to-left text like Arabic or Hebrew. These are right to left, top to bottom languages. Things flow backwards.

    I’m going to digress into a discussion of Windows UI.

    As you hinted with the “wave” discussion, icons and bitmaps are actually flipped in Arabic Windows, though strangely not in Hebrew. In Arabic and Hebrew Windows, the start button is on the right, and menues cascade left.

    It does seem that Chinese and Japanese (and Korean?) Windows should ship with the taskbar on the top, and the start button on the right. However early versions of Windows were hard-coded to Western expectations. Now that Windows has the flexibility to support anyone’s needs (I’m sure there’s a registry key to flip the start bar to flow left), the existing user base in China and Japan and Korea are used to the standard Western menues.

    It’s good that not all technological innovations need are built specifically for “Western” people. If they come from other cultures, our expectations and ways of thinking are subverted. If everyone ran left to right, the Americas would never have been colonized by Europeans!

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