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A culture group can be described as a self defined group consisting of individuals sharing similar cultural experiences. Such groups of people are defined by the types of commonalities that are shared amongst them. Some of the commonalities include religion, ethnicity or physical commonality like deaf culture (Murdock, 2005). Culture can also be analyzed as customary ways in which groups, populations, societies and communities behave or think. Other aspects of culture include language, music, food preferences and gender roles. Different countries have got their own unique cultures. Each unique culture has got own aspects well known for. For instance, Singapore is well known for its unique Kiasu culture (Murdock, 2005).
Ethnography is a description of various values, beliefs, practices and behaviors of individuals in a culture group. For a culture to be recognized, all its members need to adhere to the directions and expected conduct mode. They need to practice values and beliefs of the culture in order to practically put the cultural expectations into practice and infer the culture. Ethnography is all about analysis of culture. When analyzing a culture, you do not concentrate on recounting the events and behaviors within the cultural setting but rather inferring cultural roles that give guidance to the behaviors and events (Condon & Yousef, 1975). This paper will explore description and analysis of culture group based on these main applications. These are high/low contextual patterns, value orientations and dimensional patterns. The description and analysis will be in communication, anthropology and linguistic perspectives.
Communication tools for understanding culture
The tools that help in understanding culture relate to communication and how we see ourselves in relation to other people. In this case, we will consider high context and low context communication patterns. Under this concept, culture regards expressive practices fraught system full of feelings, rules, symbols and domains (Murdock, 2005). The communication part involves a set of shared interpretations of mutual meanings and ideas common to it. Such interpretations are forms of communications and are about the beliefs, values and norms. They affect the behaviors, events and conduct of a relatively large group of people sharing similar commonalities. For instance, different cultures have different modes of communication which are linked to feelings and identity. Since people communicate using different cultural habits, there can be either harmony or conflicts. Currently, there is no official way to describe, analyze and understand culture and its relation to communication. However, both low and high context cultural patterns of communication are tools that will help us know how different cultural settings make sense to their worlds. Since culture groups are constantly changing and evolving, the two tools are mostly used in culture classifications by communication scholars as well as anthropologists (Condon & Yousef, 1975).
The high and low context communications are cultural tools developed by Edward Hall and describes the level at which various speakers make use of tactics other than explicit speech to pass on their messages. The degree of field independence is the basis under which communication varies. In this case, field independence is actually the cultural values and other things outside the real communication that affect the meaning. According to Hall, every human being is vulnerable to sensory stimuli and gets far much confronted than can be attended to. In this case, culture groups help by screening messages communicated to others, shaping perceptions of messages and interpreting the messages in regard to selected values, norms and rules of the culture (culture filters) (Hall, 1971). For high context culture setting, the screens or filters are designed in a manner to let in implied meanings that come from physical setting, shared understanding and relational cues. In low context cultural settings, the screens and the filters attend more to the literal meanings of the communication and focus less on the context of the communication. All of us in our culture groups make use of both high and low context patterns. "Sometimes we say what we exactly mean and mean what we exactly say" (Hall, 1971, p. 123). This is a low context communication pattern. However, we also deliver or imply nonverbal cues messages in some situations without exactly speaking. This is an example of high context communication pattern (Hall, 1971).
In analysis and description of a culture group, it is important to consider individualism and communitarianism under communication. In a cultural setting, children are taught to be part of the circle of relations. A good example is the idea of 'Ubuntu' in South Africa which is a spirit of co-existence ('I am because we are') (Hall, 1971). In such settings, members are required to abide by the group norms and values of cooperation as well as interdependence. Rewards are based on this spirit. In such culture groups, identity is one of their members and is always in front. The group needs and views are what determine the culture group's identity. In such cultural settings, responses and behaviors including communication, perception and interpretation of ideas is jointly chosen. On the other hand, individualism is all about self dependence, autonomy and self direction. This is a western culture that emerged with western norms for young generations. There have been a lot of conflicts of individualism and communitarianism. Individualism is seen as rebellious to cultural values and norms by most culture groups (Hall, 1971).
Considering value orientations, Kluckhohn outlines both dominant and value orientations that are common to all people that in turn guide our actions. In doing so, the main interest was to identify specific behavior patterns that are influenced by culture in relation to its values. Under this description and analysis of culture, we regard values not as good or bad but as standards of beliefs that guide, define and shape the world. There are five value orientation categories
The first one is innate predisposition. This concerns the inherent nature of man as good, evil or mixed. A cultures view of human nature can be discerned by religious doctrines and other texts such as Koran, Bible or Torah which gives a wealth of insights about human nature. After realization of cultures view of human nature, ethnocentrism then plays a role since one culture uses its own cultural conduct to judge other and this relates to public communication.
The second one is man's relation to nature. Kluckhohn suggested that man is either in harmony with nature (man in nature), attempting to control nature (man over nature) or adherence to inevitable natural forces (man subjugated to nature). For instance, American orientation is described as man over nature due to tendency to control or conquer nature.
The third one is time dimension. Here, all societies and cultures have a conception of the past, present and future with each differing in emphasis. For example, American culture emphasizes more on future orientation and illustrations.
The fourth one is valued personality type. This is an idea of cultural self definition. Cultures tend to define themselves based their actions. This is true for almost all world cultures.
The last one is relationship pattern. These are individual, collateral and linear patterns. The American culture tends to take individual pattern where there are less family collateral bonds and linear distant relations with relatives (Kluckhohn, 993).
Hofstede's cultural dimensions also describe and analyze culture groups. The values include power/authority, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty and long term orientation. Hofstede terms this as cultural norms that play important role in mechanics and interpersonal relationships at work. In his argument, when one grows up, he takes his cultural values and norms for granted. One does not consider his reactions, feelings as well as preferences. However, when one goes to foreign culture, things seem different. Hofstede suggest that you can use your own cultural dimensions as a start point to evaluate your decisions and approaches as well as actions based on how the society will react. There is no society that is 100% homogeneous thus deviations are expected and this will be a guide from going blind in a foreign culture (Hofstede, 1981).
Different world cultures have different norms and values that concern communication, ethnicity and general cultural identification. All that is needed by an individual is to understand his culture and apply it as a basis to understand and fit in other cultures. However, understanding and analysis of culture groups solely depends on what they do to earn identity and not what they believe.