Developing International Personas A new intercultural communication practice in globalized societies

Iben Jensen (1) , Heidi Hautopp (2) , Lene Nielsen (3) , Sabine Madsen (4)
(1) Aalborg University, IT University, Copenhagen and Roskilde University , Denmark
(2) Aalborg University, IT University, Copenhagen and Roskilde University , Denmark
(3) Aalborg University, IT University, Copenhagen and Roskilde University , Denmark
(4) Aalborg University, IT University, Copenhagen and Roskilde University , Denmark


Personas have become a popular method in new product development. Personas have traditionally, and are still, primarily created to represent users from a single national culture at a time during the design process. This, however, is unsatisfactory for companies operating on a global market as they show an increasing interest in international personas. However, research on personas in a global context is limited. To address this gap, this paper provides an overview of extant research on international personas. Secondly, it presents an empirical study on challenges Danish IT companies experience when using the persona method to collect and present insights about their international users. A key finding in both the literature review and the empirical study was the ambiguity concerning the concept of culture. Therefore, the paper draws on theories about culture, and especially practice theory, to discuss how challenges related to perceptions of culture and intercultural communication might be overcome when working with international personas. In particular, it is suggested that the persona method could benefit from creating narratives that focus more on the similar practices enacted by international users and less on perceived differences in national culture.

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Iben Jensen
(Primary Contact)
Heidi Hautopp
Lene Nielsen
Sabine Madsen
Author Biographies

Iben Jensen, Aalborg University, IT University, Copenhagen and Roskilde University

Iben Jensen is Professor at Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University, Copenhagen. She holds a MA in cultural sociology and a PhD in intercultural communication. She has researched and published extensively on intercultural communication and practice theory.

Heidi Hautopp, Aalborg University, IT University, Copenhagen and Roskilde University

Heidi Hautopp is a Research Assistant affiliated with the ResearchLab: IT, Learning and Design (ILD), University of Aalborg, Copenhagen. She holds a MA in ICT and learning with a focus on using computer games in language learning for bilingual adults. Research areas include: Intercultural relations as well as games and teacher roles.

Lene Nielsen, Aalborg University, IT University, Copenhagen and Roskilde University

Lene Nielsen is associate professor at IT University, Copenhagen and holds a PhD in Personas and Scenarios. She is manager of Center for Persona Research and Application. She has many years of experience in supervising both private and public companies in implementing the personas method. She has developed the method ’10 Steps to Personas’ and written two books on personas.

Sabine Madsen, Aalborg University, IT University, Copenhagen and Roskilde University

Sabine Madsen, PhD, Researcher, Lecturer at Roskilde University, Denmark. Her research interests cover areas such as international user studies, information systems development, outsourcing and process improvement. She has published on these topics in journals, book chapters, and conference proceedings.

Jensen, I., Hautopp, H., Nielsen, L., & Madsen, S. (2017). Developing International Personas A new intercultural communication practice in globalized societies. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 17(1), 1–09.

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