An Integrated Approach to Communication Theory and Research

By Michael B. Salwen; Don W. Stacks | Go to book overview

19
Modeling Cultures: Toward Grounded Paradigms

Eduardo Nieva Mark Hickson III University of Alabama at Birmingham

Culture is not a ghost under the midday sun; it is always present in all human interactions. Human interaction does not come first and culture second. Neither culture nor human interaction can aspire to be behind one another. Interaction is made possible by the very stuff of culture: the signs1 that we share. This chapter explores the mutual influence of communication and culture. As is noted, communication is pervasive in culture--and some cultural theorists go as far as to suggest that without communication, there is no culture. Culture serves a modeling function. What we "see"--interpret--in a culture is based on our expected model of what that culture should look like through the sharing of signs. In our discussion we will explore both theoretical and grounded (capta) models of culture. First, however, we must define what culture is from both sociological and anthropological approaches to communication.

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1
Contrary to some uses of the term, sign is here understood as a general concept comprising all forms of representations, natural and human. Symbols are a product of convention and have therefore been considered the main element of cultural exchange. Umiker-Sebeok ( 1977) and Singer ( 1984) wrote two excellent critiques leading to a semiotics of culture.

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