CMS1000 Assignment 01:
by Yari Wildheart
Geography has a significant impact on the way people communicate both verbally and nonverbally.
Historically, one of the most important institutions has been that of the nation-state. It is an institution that still dominates our culture and society and in today’s geopolitically globalised climate, it is often cause for intercultural miscommunication. It is this intercultural communication and conflict that is much more visible given the heightened amount of travel that results from technological advance, and the ability to communicate with people many thousands of kilometres away that results from the rise of the internet. With so many different nations in the world today, and often many different cultures that exist within the borders of those nations, there is cause for concern. It will be argued that geographic borders create significant barriers to communication. This essay will define the nation and some of the problems that can arise from the assignment of geographic borders as it will also explore the differences between cultural philosophies and the impact on communication such differences can have, internally and externally. It should also be known that while there are other issues to cover, these shall not be included in order to provide a focused and concise essay.
Nations consist of, as defined by Peter Taylor [1989: 175], “natural units with a cultural homogeneity based on common ancestry or history.” Within these nations exist usually multiple cultures, layered on top of one another – the unifying factor is a common image presented to the external world. Tyler, Kossen & Ryan [2005: 268] define culture as “a society’s shared and systematic ways of living.” Cultures exist and differ due to geographic isolation, usually imposed by either natural constraints or social constructs like the nation-state. Communication between nations and thus cultures is significantly more important in today’s world than in ages past; with a climate of incoming economic globalisation negotiation between states is common – and can be significantly affected by cultural perceptions, ideologies, and context. Cultural differences such as the perception of rights and the degree to which interdependence is emphasised (heavily in collectivist cultures, weakly or not at all in individualist cultures) can create miscommunications which are often not perceived by those communicating.
Using Taylor’s definition of the nation [Taylor, 1989: 175], it is not difficult to see how barriers and conflicts could arise when communication across borders begins. Understanding is integral to effective communication and this can be difficult when, in a cultural sense, even basic things such as time can be perceived differently as can the context of the communication itself. Cohen explains the contrast between these two, often linked, examples of how cultures can differ, “In collectivist cultures, communication tends to be very context-sensitive. Communication forms emphasize politeness, relationship-building, tact, and even indirectness.” Such indirectness is epitomised in the example Tyler, Kossen, & Ryan use of the sign outside the library in the Republic of Korea – The sign reads, “There is much laughter and fun in our trees and park outside.” In an individualist culture such as the USA such a sign would have little place or purpose, yet in the Republic of Korea it is equivalent to a sign in the USA stating “Silence in the library.” Individualist cultures rarely, if ever, place such an emphasis on the context of communication and within these cultures communication is much more direct in nature. Such differences can often create misunderstanding and when negotiating, it is important in today’s world to confirm mutual understanding so that conflicts do not arise.
Mutual understanding however is often not...
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