Connotative Localization of an HIV Prevention Image to Promote Safer Sex Practices in Ghana

When designers localize an image’s denotative elements according to the users’ cultural preferences, research shows that it improves user experience and cross-cultural usability. However, this paper reports that, even when localized denotatively, culturally-based disparities—dissonance between how the designer communicates and how the user interprets from a cultural perspective—can still impede or entirely obstruct the image’s connotative performance. Localization needs to facilitate adaptation of the image on a connotative level particularly when the goal is to bring about behavioral change hyper-locally, on a transnational and transcultural scale, with a community of users. This paper presents findings from a case study of a campaign for HIV prevention in Kumasi, Ghana that advocates for condom use. I conducted fieldwork over a period of two years during which I interviewed lay people in Kumasi about the denotative and connotative performance of an HIV prevention image called the Red Card. My data confirms the existence of cultural dissonance between my Westernized esthetic sensibilities and Ghanaian interpretive capacities. My data also corroborates that the use of connotative localization through an interactive communication design process (CLIC) can reveal semiotic noise hindering the image’s connotative performance prior to its final production.

Cite: Bennett, Audrey. “Connotative Localization of an HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention Image to Promote Safer Sex Practices in Ghana.” Visible Language 49.1/2 (2015):25-38.