Unit 1: Introduction
about this tutorial...
This is one in a series of tutorials on intercultural communication. Anticipated completion time for this tutorial: approximately 100 minutes. If you are completing this tutorial for a course, your score on the included exercises will be recorded. Note that you can stop and come back and your score on completed items will be retained.
The objectives below can be achieved through working with the readings, presentations, and tutorial exercise
By successfully completing this unit, students should be able to
- List/discuss the benefits of intercultural communication
- Recognize increasing racial and ethnic diversity
- Discuss the role of technology in communication
- Discuss intercultural communication as a discipline
- Know about cultural taxomonies and their limits
- Identify/discuss the different contexts in which intercultural communication takes place
Key Concepts for this unit
Key concepts (PDF format)
OPENER: Turkish-German Rap
First, watch the video (about 2 minutes long) below (YouTube version)
After watching the video, think about the following:
- How much could you understand?
- What culture(s) are represented?
- What forms of communication are used?
- What group of people is represented in the video?
- How are those outside this group likely to react to it?
Now, turn to the next page for some comments.
OPENER: Comments and Analysis
1. How much could you understand?
Probably not much, I would assume. It's mostly in Turkish, but also some in German. Going back and forth between languages is known as "code-switching".
2. What culture(s) are represented?
Turkish-German youth culture. There is a sizable population of Turkish immigrants living in Germany. The U.S. is becoming more diverse demographically, but it's by no means alone in that trend. How these young men would describe their cultural identity might be complex - maybe a mixture of youth culture (lots of similarities world-wide in dress, music style, on-line social networking), traditional Turkish culture (language, probably religion, family values) and some aspects of mainstream German culture (language, schooling, restaurant/business etiquette).
3. What group of people is represented in the video?
Young Turkish-Germans, mostly (all?) men. That may be in part a reflection of hip-hop culture, but it could be related to a different conception of appropriate public roles for women in Islamic communities. This subset of the larger microculture of Turkish immigrants to Germany is characterized by its language use, dress and hair style, and affinity to world youth culture.
4. What forms of communication are used?
Not just words and music. Lots of facial expressions and gestures. The non-verbal langauge works in conjunction with the text and music to convey the intended message and attitude. In fact, in this video more may be transmitted on the non-verbal side than through the words that are sung or spoken.
5. How are others outside this group likely to react to this music?
Rap music is popular world-wide, but mostly among young people. Most likely, older people, whether German or Turkish, would not be wild about this kind of music video. Nor would older members of the Turkish-German microculture identify with other cultural aspects of these young Turkish-German men such as their non-verbal language, appearance, or relationship to the main-stream German culture.
What's the point of this unit's opener?
It's intended to illustrate the fact that the cultural identity of individuals and groups is often complex and multi-faceted. In this course we will be engaged in some broad-stroke characterization of cultures and how they differ. This can be helpful in gaining insight into the diverse ways human societies see the world and interact with people. However, we should keep in mind that these are generalizations and can be misleading in characterizing individual representatives of a given culture. Could the young men in the video simply and accurately be described as "Germans" or even as "Turkish-Germans"? Their cultural identities are complex and may change in different contexts. At home in their families, for example, they would likely act and appear quite differently than when out with their friends. The same is true at school or at work.
Chapter text in PDF format (for downloading or printing)
PRESENTATION: Intercultural Comunication Today
View YouTube version | View/print lecture outline (PDF)
- Why the World Is Flat
Article from Wired about Thomas Friedman's well-known book on globalization
- Pankaj Ghemawat: Actually, the world isn't flat
Ghemawat offers counter-arguments to the conventional wisdom about globalization, the concept that, as Tom Friedman put it, the "world is flat". In particular he has interesting comments about Facebook.
TED description: "It may seem that we're living in a borderless world where ideas, goods and people flow freely from nation to nation. We're not even close, says Pankaj Ghemawat. With great data (and an eye-opening survey), he argues that there's a delta between perception and reality in a world that's maybe not so hyperconnected after all."
Statistics on world demographics
- World Demographics Profile
From Index Mundi, includes demographic information on all countries
- Hari Kondabolu - 2042 & the White Minority
Humorous take on the demographic changes coming to the USA
Cultural dimensions and history of intercultural communication
- Edward T. Hall and The History of Intercultural Communication: The United States and Japan
Article tracing the role of anthropologist Edward T. Hall in founding the field of intercultural communication
- Geert Hofstede cultural dimensions
From Clearly Cultural
On broadening horizons and media
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story
Nigerian novelist speaking about her experiences growing up in Nigeria and studying in the USA
TED description: "Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding."
- Alisa Miller: How the news distorts our worldview
World map dramatically illustrates the US media's reporting on world events (very limited)
TED description: "Alisa Miller, head of Public Radio International, talks about why — though we want to know more about the world than ever — the media is actually showing us less. Eye-opening stats and graphs."
- Maria Bezaitis: The surprising need for strangeness
TED description: "In our digital world, social relations have become mediated by data. Without even realizing it, we're barricading ourselves against strangeness — people and ideas that don't fit the patterns of who we already know, what we already like and where we've already been. A call for technology to deliver us to what and who we need, even if it's unfamiliar."
- Leslie Dodson: Don't misrepresent Africa
TED description: "Real narratives are complicated: Africa isn't a country, and it's not a disaster zone, says reporter and researcher Leslie Dodson. In her talk, she calls for journalists, researchers and NGOs to stop representing entire continents as one big tragedy."
- Ian Goldin: Navigating our global future
TED description: "As globalization and technological advances bring us hurtling towards a new integrated future, Ian Goldin warns that not all people may benefit equally. But, he says, if we can recognize this danger, we might yet realize the possibility of improved life for everyone."
Technology and the filter bubble
- Technology is creating a world without strangers
On the sharing economy
- How to Burst the "Filter Bubble" that Protects Us from Opposing Views
From the MIT Technology Review
- Eli Pariser: Beware online "filter bubbles"
Classic TED talk explains the concepts of echo chamber and filter bubble.
TED description: "As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there's a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a 'filter bubble' and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy."
- Ethan Zuckerman: Listening to global voices
Comments on how to be more aware of what's happening in the rest of the world, such as "engineer serendipity" and "cultivate xenophiles". Discussion of Twitter from an international perspective.
TED description: "Sure, the web connects the globe, but most of us end up hearing mainly from people just like ourselves. Blogger and technologist Ethan Zuckerman wants to help share the stories of the whole wide world. He talks about clever strategies to open up your Twitter world and read the news in languages you don't even know."
How we evaluate countries
- Michael Green: Why we shouldn't judge a country by its GDP.
TED essay: "Gross Domestic Product has become the yardstick by which we measure a country’s success. But, says Michael Green, GDP isn’t the best way to measure a good society. His alternative? The Social Progress Index, which measures things like basic human needs and opportunity."
- Amy Choi: How cultures around the world make decisions
TED essay: Is the American obsession with individual freedom really such a great idea? What other cultures know about how to make good choices.
- Happiness ratings:
- The Happy Planet Index
- World Happiness Report
- OECD Better Life Index
QUICK CHECK EXERCISES
After working through this tutorial, do the following exercises. Click on links to display questions. As these are learning activities, you may re-do each and improve your score. If you are completing this tutorial in a course environment, you should click on the "finish" button on the bottom of the page to submit your score.
Q1: Effective communicaiton across cultures
Q2: Benefits of intercultural communication
Q3: Demographic Trends
Q4: Technology Trends
Q5: Intercultural communication in context
Q6: Caveats of using cultural taxonomies
Q7: Some human behaviors are determined by our cultural environment. Others are universal human activities. Still others are determined by personal choice. For the behaviors listed in the sorting activity below, describe whether are cultural, universal or personal.
Q8: Definition of culture