Intercultural Communication Summary
Chapter 1: Challenges of living in a global community
We live in a ‘global village’, which is a (future) world in which communication technology brings
news and information to the most remote parts of the world.
—> Increasing mobility and technology make this village more global and diverse, but this doesn’t
mean that the physical and psychological borders between countries and people are removed.
Globalization: the process of increasing interconnectedness between societies and people at the
economic, political and cultural levels, so that events in one place of the world have more and
deeper effects on people and societies far away.
—> This interconnectivity breaks down the boundary between East and West.
—> You can measure it via the KOF Index, which rests on three indicators: economic, social
(including information flows, and number of MacDonalds/Ikea stores) and political globalization.
Globalization in business: the increase of trade around the world, especially by large companies
producing or trading goods in many different countries.
—> It is also the idea that the world is developing a single economy and culture as a result of
improved technology and communication and the influence of very large multinational companies.
There are three different views of globalization:
- Globalists: inevitable development, cannot be resisted or significantly influenced by humans.
- Traditionalists: most economic and social activity is regional (Europe is connected with each
other, for example) rather than global; because of their belief of a significant role of nation-states,
they don’t want (much) globalization to happen.
- Transformationalists: significant shift (so, there is indeed more interconnectedness), but there is
still significant scope for national, local and other agencies.
Global cultural diversity: there are about 5000 distinct languages/cultures, representing at least
300 distinct phyla (i.e. distinct ethnolinguistic families like Indo-European, Austronesian, etc.).
—> Biological and cultural diversity go together.
Global transformation: the worldwide economic and technological changes that influence how
people relate to one another.
—> This is shown by the fact that almost everyone can buy Nike shoes or iPhones, for example.
Contributors to cultural diversity/contact:
- Advanced technology and transportation, and increased mobility; it is easier to travel & move
for economic or lifestyle opportunities, it is easier to interact online and it is a smaller, but more
diverse world (‘global village’ view).
- Globalized economy and business: there is a global transformation going on (local market
becomes as diverse as global market), an international expansion (MNCs operating globally,
outsourcing to low-wage countries), and a more diverse workforce (migrant workers etc.).
- Mass migration and international exchange (ca. 5% of global population is mobile):
immigration flows, refugees, student exchanges, expats, migrant workers.
The ever-increasing flow of people through international migration is the most significant
contributor to the culturally diverse society today.
The concept of ‘cultural home’ refers to an individual’s sense of belonging to an ethnic, racial or
geographic community with shared traditions and practices.
Necessities and benefits of IC:
- Multiculturalism at the descriptive level: society is made up of diverse cultures; living and
working together requires tolerance and mutual understanding; ‘melting pot’ societies flourish
when there is acceptance of equal societal participation of diverse groups. Multiculturalism as an attitude: refers to a society’s tolerance towards diversity and acceptance
of equal societal participation (or not).
—> Does the preservation of the ethnic cultures create a threat to the uniqueness and dominance
of the mainstream culture?
- Building intercultural understanding: becoming aware of cultural rules by being confronted
with cultural rules of others.
- Promoting international business exchange: for example, for some cultures, business is
building relationships (like in China) —> understanding cultural differences is the key to
successful business exchange.
- Facilitating cross-cultural adaptation: the tension between immigrants and host nationals often
centers on the issue of cultural maintenance - melting pot or salad bowl?
‘Fractionation’ is used to describe the divisive separation of people, societies and nations.
—> Recognition of cultural diversity is only a first step: it has to be translated into practice in
everyday lives in order for different cultural groups to reach understanding.
—> The key to building this necessary understanding between cultural groups is effective
Small world experiment (1967) conducted by Milgram:
- How many steps (via other people) does it take to connect two random people in the world?
- Participants in various cities in the US were asked to send a letter to a person in Boston, only via
people that they knew personally.
- Result: on average, it took 5 to 6 steps (people) to get from the starting point to the end point.
- ‘Six degrees of separation’: network theory.
Small world experiment 2.0 in 2012 via Facebook:
- If you pick any two Facebook users, it’s been calculated there’s an average of 3.57 ‘degrees of
separation’ between them.
- So, it seems that the world is getting smaller and smaller.
Chapter 2: Culture and People
It is difficult to define the concept of culture; therefore, many definitions exist.
- Nevertheless, all definitions have the following in common: culture is pervasive
(alomtegenwoordig, doordringend, etc.) in human life & culture governs people’s behaviors.
- People use metaphors to describe culture: e.g., people see the world through a window/cultural
glasses; culture is the luggage we carry, the air we breathe; culture is like the water fish swim in.
- Another metaphor: 'it’s like a web that people have spun’; culture confines members to their
social reality and facilities their functioning in it; culture is product and process; culture provides
context for behavior.
- Another metaphor: Iceberg view from Hall, visible (above the surface; symbols, rituals) and
invisible (below the surface; values, norms) things of a culture.
- Another metaphor: culture is like an onion (Hofstede; symbols, heroes, rituals, values); culture is
a software of the mind (culture as hardwired program which needs to be installed); culture is like
a tree (roots below the surface, hidden values; it’s dynamic).
Culture may be defined as:
- ‘The particular way of life of a group of people and the meaning-making process by which
people make sense of their social world’.
- ’Culture comprises the deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, traditions, religion,
notions of time, roles, spatial relations, world views, material objects and geographic territory’.
Dodd’s model of culture, viewed as ‘layered’ (like an onion):
- Inner core of culture aspects: underlie and shape a culture and behavior in that culture.
It consists of:
—> History: carrier of cultural heritage, provides continuity.
—> Identity: a sense of ‘who we are’ or ‘who I am’.
—> Beliefs: what a culture believes as true or false.
—> Values: what a culture regards as good or bad.
—> Worldview: what a culture believes about nature and the working of the universe.
- Intermediate layer of culture: observable activities as manifestations of culture.
—> Expressed in material objects, roles, rules, rituals, customs, communication patterns and
artistic expressions (e.g. King’s day). They reflect the behavioral and social rules and
communication patterns a group shares and agrees on.
—> Popular culture: the daily interactions, needs and desires that make up the everyday lives of
the mainstream. It includes practices pertaining to e.g. cooking, clothing, sports, arts, mass
- Outer layer of culture: involves institutions of culture, which are the formalized systems that
structure and govern a culture or society.
—> It includes religious, economic, political, family, healthcare and educational systems and
—> It comprises numerous aspects of a culture that are generally accepted and often sanctioned