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T1 C Culture Defs Inc Tj

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  • 1. Towards an Understanding of Culture and Communication. Definitions of ‘Culture’ 1. [Culture is] “The shared system of symbolic knowledge and patterns of behaviour, derived from speech communication, that human individuals carry to provide predictable internal and external psychological stability so as to prevent chaos among human individuals. We learn cultural codes for social life, role expectations, common definitions of situations, and social norms in order to provide predictability and survival of the human species. Human language (spoken and written) is the symbolic ‘glue’ of human culture.” Aldridge M G. (2002). What is the basis of Human Culture. Intercultural Communication http://www.immi.se/intercultural/. [Cited Wall, S & Rees, B. Introduction to International Business./ FT Prentice Hall.] TJ. • Evenly shared? 100% Buy-in? • Only speech? (Do we judge people only by what they say or by what they DO?). • Society at large may ‘expect’…. But degree of conformity is up to the individual and may change over time with age & experience. • Are there not sub-cultures of non-conformist ‘deviant’ behaviour? (Drugs, drinking, raves etc… but other more positive ones too???). If society depends upon change / advancement – isn’t some unpredictability desirable? Think: The Matrix… Neo was a deliberately introduced agent of change into the programme to test it, extend it, refine it, re-make it. Think: why do so many large companies have a positive external recruitment policy?…..To challenge ‘received wisdom’ going ‘stale’ inside the corporate ‘box’. Think: why do we have universities? Just to pass on the knowledge of the last generation??? No! To give you (with our blessing and encouragement) the opportunity to think about it, analyse it, evaluate it…. Then change it and improve it!!! • THE ABOVE VISION IS TOO ‘STATIC’. 2. “We can liken it [culture] to the air: it is everywhere, we cannot see it, but we know it is there, we breathe it and we cannot exist without it. Culture is not a biological necessity and we will not die if we are deprived of it. But it is rather improbable, if not impossible for a person to be devoid of the traces of his or her cultural upbringing and separated from his or her cultural context.” Tyab, M. (2000). International Business: Theories, Policies & Practices. FT/Prentice Hall. [Cited Wall, S & Rees, B. Introduction to International Business. FT Prentice Hall.] TJ. • Ok…. You can ‘liken’ it… but it doesn’t say what it IS! • ‘Deprived’ should get you thinking about Maslow’s ‘Heirarchy of Needs’. If one simplified this to three layers: 1. Physiological. 2. Belonging. 3.
  • 2. Self –Actualisation….. Culture clearly is the contextual bedrock for our ‘belonging’ 3. “[Culture]…denotes an historically transmitted pattern of meaning embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.” Geertz, C. (1973) Pg 89. The Interpretation of Culture. Basic Books New Yk. [Cited: Martin, J N & Nakayama, TK (2003) Intercultural Communication in Contexts. McGraw & Hill.] http://www.mhhe.com/martinnakayama/ TJ. • Very simplistic! • ‘Historically….inherited’…. still leaves the problem that there is a difference between what we ‘inherit’ from our forebears and what we ‘bequeathe’ to our successors: so what is the mechanism by which culture changes? We inherit all the mixed blessings of our parents’ genes in our bodies, but we are not clones. We have free will…we choose - and sometimes we don’t agree with our parents, reject conformity and subscribe to a new personal perception and belief, which, when shared with friends may become codified and distinctive. It may ‘catch on’ it may not. [Make love not war… Flower Power 60s etc… and the ‘flower power generation has had its children, passed on it’s wisdom and is now entering retirement still wondering how they gave birth to Punk!] • The view here is that culture is the means by which we communicate…. BUT it neglects the fact that ‘culture’ has to be transmitted…. And this IS a communication process in itself. 4. “Every person carries within him or herself patterns of thinking, feeling, and potential acting which were learned throughout his or her lifetime. Much of these patterns are acquired in early childhood, because at that time a person is most susceptible to learning and assimilating.” Hofstede, G. (1997) Pg 4. Cultures & Organisations: software of the Mind. [Revised Edn] Mc Graw Hill New Yk. [Cited: Martin, J N & Nakayama, TK (2003) Intercultural Communication in Contexts. McGraw & Hill.] • TJ Learning is a process isn’t it? Is it just a lecturer reading at you? No. Learning usually involves ‘teaching’ which goes far beyond one-way communication. … It is an interactive, 2-way process…. I could teach my heart out…but if you chose not to listen, chose not to ‘engage’ with me, your fellow students and the subject, came with NIL interest and motivation – how much learning would actually take place? Learning is more than transfer of information: it is understanding, ownership (and through application and reflection: wisdom). Learning is an exercise in: motivation; attention; acquisition; perception; reflection; intention and application • The very young are most susceptible to uncritical acceptance: yes, but the growing sense of self which comes with the years always pits individuality against interdependence …and possibly my rights against my responsibilities to society. Culture and the codes that embody it are often the means of resolving this tension.
  • 3. • We are not ‘fixed’. With age and experience some black and white issues of our youth become grey and likewise some grey issues black and white. So as our changes are represented to peers and accepted or rejected  cultural shift. 5. “Culture is defined as a pattern of learned, group-related perception – including both verbal and non-verbal language attitudes, values, belief system, disbelief systems and behaviour.” Singer, MR (1987) Pg 34. Intercultural Communication: A Perceptual Approach. Prentice Hall. [Cited: Martin, J N & Nakayama, TK (2003) Intercultural Communication in Contexts. McGraw & Hill.] I like the idea of ‘pattern’ (but is the pattern always clear....and does it look the same to everyone?). ‘Learned’ is good too in that it suggests a means of culture’s acquisition. ‘Group-related’ is good too, both in terms of how individuals perceive groups, groups perceive individuals and groups perceive groups. ‘Verbal and non- verbal’ is good too...because we perceive using ALL our senses. The list of ‘attitudes, values and beliefs/disbeliefs’ is good too, although I would perhaps have preferred it in the order of values (because they lie at the core), then beliefs because they codify our values to produce a perspective on life, and finally attitudes, which are, for me, visible in the positions /stances we take towards events, issues and people. ‘Disbelief’, I find very revealing: culture can clearly note what we are NOT as well as who we are. 6. “Culture … refers to a socially constructed and historically transmitted pattern of symbols, meaning, premises and rules.” Philipsen, G (1992) Pg 7. Speaking Culturally: Explorations in Social Communication. State University of New Yk Press. TJ. • We have law, regulation by the state, industry self-regulation, corporate self- governance…BUT still we do not all do or feel or believe the same things. We do not always have the same personal appreciation of or abide by ‘the rules’... and how firm are these ‘rules’: laws? Regulations? Principles? Guidelines? If I break the rules, by whom and how are things enforced?. [Club 18-30 eg]. As to ‘construction’, I am not sure it is the best word as it implies a highly-organised production process in which individuals and groups and people within groups have clearly defined and related roles: is it really like that? (What is your position and role??). ‘Historically transmitted’ is helpful in one way in that it presupposes some transition over time; but not in another: if it were 100% the case and done perfectly, then culture would be unchanged and unchanging, which it clearly is not. ‘Pattern’: reveals that there is to some degree meaningful and discernable relationship between the components.
  • 4. 7. [Corporate Culture]…” is the pattern of basic assumptions that a given group has invented, discovered or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration. These have worked well enough to be considered valid, and are therefore taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems.” Schein, EH. (1984) Coming to a new Awareness of Organisation Culture. Sloan Management Review. Winter Issue. [Cited: Jacob, N. (2003) Intercultural Management. Kogan Page. London.] TJ. • Interesting! ‘Pattern’ (as above) implies something of a reasoning and rationality on the basis of reflection (analysis….evaluation….synthesis….response) which has produced something relatively ‘fixed’…whereas ‘problems’ and ‘invention / discovery / development’ suggest that there is an on-going process of stimulus  response. It is a sort of ‘designer culture’ where the wheels of the R&D processes are constantly being turned to the tune of the problems and throwing up ‘tweaks’ to the pre-existing culture. Culture then becomes an issue of relationship, a systematically developed accommodation by the organisation to changes in the business environment. Uncontrolled stimuli, but controllable, adjustable designer responses: a DYNAMIC system. I also like the acceptance that culture applies to ‘basic’ assumptions which have worked ‘well enough’: i.e.: it is not an exact science and it operates at a low, fundamental level. 8. “The core of culture is composed of explicit and tacit assumptions or understandings commonly held by a group of people; a particular configuration of assumptions/ understandings is distinctive to the group; these assumptions / understandings serve as guides to acceptable and unacceptable perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behaviours; they are learned and passed on to new members of the group through social interaction; culture is dynamic – it changes over time.” Boyacigiller NA et al. (2003) Conceptualising Culture – elucidating the Streams of Research in International Cross-Cultural Management. In : Handbook for International Management Research. (2003) 2nd Ed. Univ of Michigan Press. [Cited: Martin, J N & Nakayama, TK (2003) Intercultural Communication in Contexts. McGraw & Hill.] I like the use of ‘tacit’ and ‘assumptions’ here: things which are relatively imprecise but which we clearly perceive and evaluate and to which we respond: it doesn’t have to be in the form of more formal ‘rules’. ‘Distinctive’ is good too: culture coalesces around and within a group with the effect of distinguishing and separating it from others (perhaps it is a bit like a ‘brand’ in the marketplace – we are very sophisticated consumers and can make very
  • 5. subtle distinctions between brands). Again, the use of the word ‘guides’ implies something rather less formalised and less capable of enforcement than rules. ‘Dynamic’: people change, circumstances change, social interaction changes, so it follows that culture itself must be likewise dynamic. 9 [Culture is]… “ That complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities or habits acquired by a person as a member of society.” Tylor (1871) [Cited: Lewis, H. Bournemouth University Lecture 2005 (Unpublished) ] Look at the date of the original source: 1871 – who says only recent material can be valid! ‘Complex’: yes, it is hard to pin down a definition and even harder to get inside this dynamic process of cultural evolution to really understand it. ‘Art’, or perhaps more correctly ‘expressions’ artistic and musical etc can be representations of culture or sub-cultures (‘Rock’ in the late 60s and 70s.... ‘Punk’ in the 80s.... ‘Grunge’ in the 90s, for example). This definition isn’t bad in terms of its scope of the ‘What’ of culture, but it is rather weaker on the ‘How’. 10 [Culture is] … “A way of life of a group of people…. The patterns of learned behaviour which are handed down from one generation to the next through the means of language and imitation.” Barnouw (1963) [Cited: Lewis, H. Bournemouth University Lecture 2005 (Unpublished) ‘A way of life’... is culture actually the way of life itself, or is it a description and a representation of what the group subscribes to? Can you actually follow ‘a way of life’ the way you could a road map? ‘Patterns of learned behaviour’ is good too, and the fact is that by our very nature we are forever processing information, seeking to understand it, considering its validity and relevance to us and coming up with a personal response: i.e. we are learning. In that process of learning we apply our intellect, our judgement: this is how what we receive from our parents and society at large is sieved as if we were panning for gold. Perhaps when we are young we imprint on our parents and we imitate in order to be accepted, but with age and learning comes choice, and we choose the things and groups to which we wish to subscribe or more loosely affiliate ourselves. That is where the degree of change comes in: through infinite degrees of conformity or non-conformity. SO: Reflecting for a moment upon the above definitions AND our critiques thereof:- How may your group’s definitions be improved and enhanced in order to provide a master working definition.....?
  • 6. [I hope that you have gained the impression that I want you to think for yourselves, to critique those things that academics and professionals have written – I believe that you are capable of this and also that it is your duty to society, learning and the future so to do. We move on only as society only if you have the courage to do just this!]