Stephanie Dickerson Graphic Design Thesis Spring 2019


Cultured is an organization providing tools and services aiming to help exchange and international students during their travels. One aspect of Cultured is an app, which provides the students with a digital assistant guide, a real life mentor, a messaging system with other students, and many opportunities and suggestions to get involved with the new environment and culture. The primary function of the app is the AI chatbot that assists, advises, suggests, connects, and provides for the students. Overall, the app is a personal space that advises and helps the student through keeping them active and connected to others.

The services provided in the app are based off my personal experience in studying abroad, along with research done on the subject. Studying abroad is difficult, with culture shock becoming a large disruption in the adventure. Culture shock cannot be solved with a single solution, which is how the organization Cultured came about. The digital assistant guide within Cultured explores the concept of digital therapy, referencing other chatbots such as Eliza, the first psychotherapy tool created. An AI is a tool that is seen in the everyday life, such as with Google home and Alexa. With an AI, a 24/7 connection is provided for the students, as the chatbot allows for availability that even a human therapist cannot achieve. Availability becomes especially relevant for exchange and international students, as the people they may generally rely on are oftentimes in very different time zones. The digital assistant creates a personal connection with the student by having four primary principles to it. First, the AI helps the student by detecting the emotions of the user through messages and then provides assistance for those feelings. Second, the AI is proactive. As a human centered technology, it works in the best interest and well-being of the user. Thirdly, the AI is conversational as it engages the student. Finally, inquisitive becomes the fourth principle, as the assistant continuously asks questions, such as other chatbots do, allowing students to open up as needed. The primary functions of the AI can be seen as it helps the student understand the culture of the place they are traveling to, advising the student on directions and transportation methods of the unfamiliar location, suggesting events and things to do based off the student’s preferences, connecting students based off similarities, and becoming a space for the student to be able to let go of frustrations while experiencing culture shock.

Exchange and international students will adjust quickly to their exchange as the app provides the needed help and services. Outside connections will be formed through the assistant, giving students real-life and local contacts familiar with their situations and needs. Culture shock may never be solved entirely, but exchange and international students will have the support they need to aid them through the difficulties that will arise during their transition into a new culture. Students will then be uninhibited to enjoy and express themselves, and, in addition, this will enable a more welcoming, diverse, and inclusive environment.

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