This topic covers the review of a product such as a book, a game, a software, a piece of hardware, etc.

Beyond Culture – Book Review

What these books are about
A set of studies about the deep meanings of culture. Edward T. Hall has lead a unique study in order to understand the consequences in our lives of our education. These books are not the latest available on the subject. Authors like Hofstede, Trompenaars or Lewis have produced more recent and maybe thorough studies. But T. Hall work is still worth reading if you are interested in the field of cross-cultural communication. These were the first books I read on the topic of cross-cultural communication. And I must say, they have saved me from a lot of frustration!

The Review
Edward T. hall has studied in a unique way the impact of culture in your daily life. Culture, doesn’t mean books or movies or even songs but is defining the part of yourself that you don’t really master anymore. All these reflex that you consider as natural are specific to each culture. They make you behave and think differently in front of the same situation if you are German, French, American or Japanese. It sounds obvious but it is not and Hall has driven an impressive study over the years which should be read by everybody living in a multi-cultural environment.
Once you have read these books you will never react the same way in front of your colleagues or friends coming from another culture. It should help you to avoid useless conflicts mainly caused by misunderstanding. Not that Hall is giving the explanation to everything but he is studying generic questions as: What is being late?; Are we doing one thing at a time like the Germans and the Americans or several at a time like the Arabs or the [...]

Fear and Trembling – Book Review

For once, I will not review a technical book or a study but a fiction. Not that I intend to become a reference in literature, there are far better reviewers than I for that, but this book is well related to a topic that I often talk about: cross-cultural communication. This book was given to me by my wife who knows very well my work on communication, especially cross-cultural one. I thank her for that. It is always extremely pleasant to have people around you capable of offering you the perfect book. I would probably have missed that one, had I been on my own.

The context is the following: a young woman, living in Japan, speaking Japanese fluently and knowing the country extremely well is getting a job in a Japanese company. She is not expecting the most fascinating job on earth but she clearly intends to do her best and integrate perfectly inside the company.

I won’t tell you about the story much more than that but I will comment on how this story appealed to me. The author is describing the daily life of someone who believed she could blend into a culture because of her excellent knowledge of the language and the country. She believes that she understands customs, habits, and practices well enough to become invisible inside the group. Of course, nothing goes as planned and her journey inside the company is fascinating. She is not Japanese and it is made very clear to her that she will never be. When I say clear, I mean she understands what is not necessarily said. She does indeed know the culture well enough to get these messages, but not well enough to achieve [...]

The Universal History of Numbers – Book review

There are things around us that we take for granted and don’t give much thought about. Numbers and counting is definitely one of them. We all learn how to count from very early age. We manipulate numbers very easily and beyond numbers, mathematics has given the power to change the world. But if you ask abruptly to anyone: where does it come from? Very few can answer that. I could not, until my parents, in 1995, give me this book as a present. This book has had a huge impact on me and this is why I will tell you more about it. But before starting the review, I’ll have to say that the version I have read is rather old and it seems to me much bigger than the versions available these days. In its French version (see picture with white cover available in Amazon in second hand), it was made of two books of about 1000 pages each. The editions you can now find are about half the size. Has it been shorten or is it just the editing that makes a difference? I could not tell you. But obviously the check I’ve made on the recent editions seems to show that you might have less but you’d still get plenty.

First impression
What strikes the reader when you get that book is the huge amount of information, the incredible number of topics covered in this book. The more you go through the chapters titles, the more you understand you knew nothing about numbers. There is much more to numbers than the 10 digits we daily use in occident. Humans have been extremely creative as the need to be able to count was [...]

The Story of Writing – Book review

I love the British Museum! When I go to the British Museum I always visit the book store. The book store used to be a mine of great books. It is now much smaller and quite disappointing to say the truth. Nevertheless, I bought this book at the British Museum. The title “The Story of Writing” was appealing to me as I am very interested in language and how humans have created the possibility to communicate while not in a face to face situation. When we are on a project, we often rely almost exclusively on writing for communicating. I have covered this question several times and my position is that it is totally foolish as writing was never intended to communicate so precisely in the first place. Anyway, I will stick to my topic today: reviewing “The Story of Writing” by Andrew Robinson.

First impression
When you take this book in hand you notice the weight immediately. It is made in very thick high quality paper due to the numerous photos and illustrations. When you scan it, the impression is excellent and you want to stop at every page to have a better look.
In details
The whole book is organised around sections of 2 pages: left and right. So, in a way, wherever you open the book, you are in front of an end to end story. This construction is clever as it gives to the reader a nicely manageable pace for the reading. Each topic is generously illustrated with photos, diagrams, tables and all things necessary to make the point. The range of topics covered is simply amazing. I’ll give you a few: origins of writing; sign language; pictography; cuneiform; Mayan alphabet; [...]

A Theory of Fun – Book Review

Since I have started to work with the Games industry I have been fascinated by the passion this industry is provoking. Here I mean passionate debates between people who love games and those who despise them. One side is convinced that it is pure entertainment and that killing virtual characters by the dozens, battles between heroes and evil, fighting for conquest, driving crazy cars or simulating sports is totally safe and innocent. On the other side, we can hear and read people about games saying how dangerous, destructive and addictive they can be. Curiously, on a personal level I started rather neutral on the subject. I had played a bit when I was studying computer science at University. I remembered spending a couple of half nights on stuff like Dune and waking up in the morning wondering why on earth I did spend that valuable time on that screen. Anyway, as life and business was bringing me back to Games, I intended to get another shot at it. So, I started to play again. This day, I can say that I have had a very serious go at the question and have acquired a solid experience on what games can offer to us.

This paper is not here to close the debate about how good or bad video game can be but to review a book on the topic. This book could only appeal to me with its title: “A Theory of Fun.”

First impression
The format of this book is rather unusual. Now if we think about it, from the Chief Creative Officer for Sony Entertainment, we should not expect anything too traditional. Indeed, as Raph is talking about fun, we can see from page [...]