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Theories of Culture & Communication
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  1. Theories of Culture & Communication John R. Baldwin, Ph.D.

  2. The Notion of Cultural Difference

  3. Co-Cultural Theory (Orbe) • Coculture: For Orbe, a “subordinate” or “marginalized” culture within a dominant culture. So—women are a co-cultural in male society; Blacks are co-culture; Whites are not. • The main point of this theory is: People in marginalized groups, when speaking with dominant cultural members, must make choices on how to communicate. The theory attempts to explain what the person takes into consideration in this communication. 1

  4. Background to CCT • Standpoint (feminist) theory • Standpoint: Each group has partial knowledge and a distinct view of the world. This viewpoint is based on distinct social positions. • Some partial knowledges are more complete than others: Subordinate group knows dominant more than dominant knows subordinate (why?) • It is important to learn perspectives of subordinate groups (why?)

  5. Six Universal Influences Orbe suggests that a person considers six things that he calls “influences” when communicating with a dominant cultural member. Mostly for our exam, you just need to know the main idea and give some examples if you give a “brief explanation” of the theory? • Field of Experience– “What past interactions have I had with dominant group members that will influence my current behavior?” • Abilities– “What are my physical and psychological limitations in communicating with the dominant culture?” Continued…

  6. Six Universal Influences Orbe suggests that a person considers six things that he calls “influences” when communicating with a dominant cultural member. Mostly for our exam, you just need to know the main idea and give some examples if you give a “brief explanation” of the theory? • Preferred Outcomes—“What communication behavior will lead to the effect that I desire?” Specifically, what is my identity goal. Do I want to “assimilate” to dominant culture, “separate” from dominant culture, or “accommodate”—work with dominant culture, while still respecting and valuing my own? Continued…

  7. 2. Field of Experience– “What past interactions have I had with dominant group members that will influence my current behavior?” 3. Abilities– “What are my physical and psychological limitations in communicating with the dominant culture?”

  8. Situational Context– “In what situation am I communicating with the dominant culture?” • Perceived Costs and Rewards— “What do I stand to gain and lose from an interaction with a member of the dominant culture?” • Communication Approach– “Which of the three approaches will I employ to achieve my preferred outcome?” Passive, Assertive, Aggressive

  9. Orbe’s Co-Cultural Communication Orientations, p. 110

  10. What is CAT • Definition: Communication Accommodation Theory states that when a person is in a communicative situation with another person, the speaker (using both verbal and non-verbal communication strategies) can either come closer to the listener’s communication level, or they can move further away from the communication level of the listener. This theory also attempts to discover why speakers move closer or further away in their communicative acts with their listeners. Luster

  11. Main communication approaches • Convergence is when a speaker moves closer to the communication level of the listener. • Divergence: A speaker moves away from the listener’s level of communication. • Maintenance: A speaker does not change comm style. Luster

  12. How do we converge or diverge? • Channels- • Verbal: • Topic, terms of address, word choice, grammar • Paralinguistic • Tone of voice, volume, rate, intonation • Nonverbal • Direction- we can move towards, away from • Mutuality- one or both people can change Luster

  13. Why do we converge and diverge? • Goals: To stand apart, to mark your status (diverge), to be understood, to get a better tip (converge), etc. • Abilities • Social structure: which group is bigger, who else is there, what is the social status of the individuals? Is one language dialect “privileged”? • Rules of the situation: In many cases, it is not appropriate to converge Luster

  14. Outcomes • What speakers take away after an intercultural communication episode takes place. • Can be Good or Bad. • If overaccommodation (either too much accommodation, or accomodation based on stereotypes) will be bad! • Ex: hyperexplanation—when one group (often Whites) simplifies language and word choice or engages in repetition to “overexplain” to another group (often Blacks)—cited as a major problem in interracial communication! • Ex: secondary baby talk —using upward tone, simple words, “we” form when speaking with elderly people, as if we were speaking to small children. • Ex: speaking more loudly to foreigners, as if that would help them understand. • The key: How does the other person perceive your accommodation to be intended? If she or he perceives good motives, the result will likely be positive; if bad or stereotypical motives, result will likely be bad! • Nonconvergence (maintenance or divergence) almost always result in more negative intergroup perceptions. Luster

  15. Ethnography of Communication • Main description: Ethnography (of communication) is an approach to studying communication behavior that contains an element of observation. • The researcher observes a culture for a long time (can ask questions, interact, etc.—may or may not use discourse ar conversation analysis!). The researcher often writes up results in one of two forms:

  16. Ethnography of Communication • Scripts: Goddard & Wierzbicka talk about “scripts” or descriptions that summarize periods of observation. • For example: When a stranger stands next to you at the urinal and starts talking to you….you X….because if you do/don’t, then Y…. • The “script” in this case, is the summary statement of behavior.

  17. Ethnography of Communication • Other researchers observe using the SPEAKING lens or framework to uncover behavior: • Scene • Participants • Ends (purposes) • Act sequence (order of events) • Key (tone, feeling) • Instrumentalities (HOW: channel, dialect, etc.) • Norms (rules guiding the behavior) • Genre (type of behavior in question)