The personal computer has become one of the most ubiquitous appliances in today’s modern world. Human interaction with the PC is mediated by software applications, and the functionalities that the software presents to the user in part determine the user’s experience. As the software industry continues to grow, and as applications carry an increasing amount of information and communication, software applications have become more than mere 0’s and 1’s on the screen: they have become carriers of culture. It is my contention that software design is deeply influenced by mainstream American culture, and therefore reflects the values and priorities identified with that culture. To demonstrate my hypothesis, I plan to consult sources from leading researchers in the field of cultural studies in order to identify the most relevant cultural values of the West. I will then proceed to investigate how those values are reflected in one of the most widely distributed software applications in the world (as part of the Microsoft Office suite), Microsoft Outlook. With the help of literature on software design, I will identify the intentions of computer programmers during the process of software design and will explore how those intentions might subconsciously reflect mainstream American culture. Finally, I will discuss some of the possible consequences of having software as a carrier of Western culture, including the potential impact on other cultures.
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