Looking At The Dynamic Process Of Communication Cultural Studies Essay

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Communication is a dynamic process that presents some major differences according to the cultural dynamics involved. Since one must master not only a linguistic but also a cultural code in order to function and communicate effectively, the translation of the cultural element is a very important component of cross-cultural communication.

Culture is the learned way of group living and the group's responses to various stimuli. It is also the total way of life and thinking patterns that are passed from generation to generation. "A cultured person is one who behaves in a becoming way according to his society's standard of behavior; one who has cultivated taste for what society judges admirable and worthy of the human spirit." (Umoren) It is the patterns of behavior and thinking that people living in social groups learn, create, and share.

It encompasses norms, values, customs, art, and beliefs, distinguishing one human group from others. A people's culture includes their beliefs, rules of behavior, language, rituals, art, and technology, styles of dress, ways of producing and cooking food, religion, and political and economic systems.

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Culture is a problematic issue for marketers since it is inherently nebulous and often difficult to understand. "It is a convenient catchall for the many differences in market structure and behavior that cannot readily be explained in terms of more tangible factors." (Buzzell) Inevitably, global companies need to develop a capability to conduct cross-cultural analysis of foreign markets, in order to better their understanding of their cultural context.

"By understanding a nation's national culture the global manager understands how the inhabitants of that country behave and form opinions and therefore can anticipate changes in sales and make important decisions based on these understandings." (Robbins) Accordingly, the company's international marketing plan must be modified and adapted to the dictates of the foreign market.

Relation between Communication and Culture

The relationship between communication and culture is a very complex and intimate one. First, cultures are created through communication; that is, communication is the means of human interaction through which cultural characteristics- whether customs, roles, rules, rituals, laws, or other patterns-are created and shared. It is not so much that individuals set out to create a culture when they interact in relationships, groups, organizations, or societies, but rather that cultures are a natural by-product of social interaction. In a sense, cultures are the "residue" of social communication. Without communication and communication media, it would be impossible to preserve and pass along cultural characteristics from one place and time to another. One can say, therefore, that culture is created, shaped, transmitted, and learned through communication. The reverse is also the case; that is, communication practices are largely created, shaped, and transmitted by culture.

To understand the implications of this communication-culture relationship, it is necessary to think in terms of ongoing communication processes rather than a single communication event. For example, when a three-person group first meets, the members bring with them individual thought and behavioral patterns from previous communication experiences and from other cultures of which they are, or have been, a part. As individuals start to engage in communication with the other members of this new group, they begin to create a set of shared experiences and ways of talking about them. If the group continues to interact, a set of distinguishing history, patterns, customs, and rituals will evolve. Some of these cultural characteristics would be quite obvious and tangible, such that a new person joining the group would encounter ongoing cultural "rules" to which they would learn to conform through communication. New members would in turn influence the group culture in small, and sometimes large, ways as they become a part of it. In a reciprocal fashion, this reshaped culture shapes the communication practices of current and future group members. This is true with any culture; communication shapes culture, and culture shapes communication.

Cross Cultural Communication

Trying to do international business without prior cross-cultural training is a recipe for disaster. When organizations become cross-border entities, cross-cultural factors start affecting every aspect of the business. Whether in multi-cultural teams or in business interactions, the variants of cultural nuances eventually end up affecting the business. Cross-cultural training is conducted by many Indian IT organizations to equip their employees with skills to do business in a global environment. But there is much more to cross-cultural training than a crash course in etiquette or learning how to order a five-course meal; it is about a deeper understanding of the values and ethos that define a culture. However, this starts by understanding one's own culture and then graduating to understanding and appreciating the differences of another.

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Cultures are largely invisible. Much of what characterizes cultures of relationships, groups, organizations, or societies is invisible to its members, much as the air is invisible to those who breathe it. Language, of course, is visible, as are greeting conventions, special symbols, places, and spaces. However, the special and defining meanings that these symbols, greetings, places, and spaces have for individuals in a culture are far less visible. For example, one can observe individuals kissing when they greet, but unless one has a good deal more cultural knowledge, it is difficult to determine what the behavior means in the context of the culture of their relationship, group, organization, or society. In other words, it is difficult to tell, without more cultural knowledge, if the kiss is a customary greeting among casual acquaintances or if such a greeting would be reserved for family members or lovers. As another example, beefsteak is thought of as an excellent food in some cultures. However, if one were a vegetarian or a member of a culture where the cow is sacred, that same steak would have an entirely different cultural meaning.

Islamic Culture

The concept of an Islamic world is useful in looking at different periods of human history; similarly useful is an understanding of the identification with a quasi-political community of believers, or ummah, on the part of Islam's practitioners down the centuries.

Within a century of Muhammad's recitations of the Qur'an, an Islamic state stretched from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Central Asia in the east. This new polity soon broke into a civil war known to Islamic historians as the First Fitna, and was later affected by a Second Fitna. Through its history, there would be rival dynasties claiming the caliphate, or leadership of the Muslim world, and many Islamic states and empires offered only token obedience to a caliph unable to unify the Islamic world.

The subsequent empires of the Ummayyads, Abbasids, the Mughals, and the Seljuk Turk, Safavid Persia and Ottomans were among the largest and most powerful in the world. The peoples of the Islamic world gave rise to many centers of culture and science and produced notable scientists, astronomers, mathematicians, doctors, nurses and philosophers during the Golden Age of Islam. Technology flourished; there was much investment in economic infrastructure, such as irrigation systems and canals; stress on the importance of reading the Qur'an produced a comparatively high level of literacy in the general populace.

In the 18th and 19th centuries A.D., Islamic regions fell under the sway of European imperial powers. Following World War I, the remnants of the Ottoman Empire were parceled out as European protectorates. Since then, there has been no major widely-accepted claim to the caliphate (which had been last claimed by the Ottomans).

Although affected by various ideologies, such as communism, during much of the twentieth century, Islamic identity and Islam's salience on political questions have arguably increased during the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. Rapid growth, western interests in Islamic regions, international conflicts and globalization influenced Islam's importance in shaping the world of the twenty-first century.

There are several Muslim versions of early Islamic history as written by the Sunni, Shi'a, and Ibadi sects. Nineteenth century Western scholars tended to privilege the Sunni versions; the Sunni are the largest sect, and their books and scholars were easily available.

Five Pillars of Islam

The Arabic word "Islam" literally means "submission". Islam, as a faith means total and sincere submission to God. Such submission to God brings peace and tranquility.

The five pillars of Islam are the five obligatory acts of worship that every Muslim must dutifully carry out. Failure to do so is a grave sin. The edifice of Islam rests upon these pillars. One cannot be considered a Muslim if he or she denies that any one of these acts is obligatory.

Shahada - The Declaration of Faith to "Testify that there is no deity except God and that Muhammad is his messenger"

Salat - To Pray five times a day

Zakat - To Pay the yearly alms

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Sawm - To fast during the month of Ramadhan

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