Exploring Borders: Understanding Culture and Psychology

Exploring Borders: Understanding Culture and Psychology

Exploring Borders: Understanding Culture and Psychology

Exploring Borders: Understanding Culture and Psychology

Synopsis

This study highlights and explores the ways in which culture acts as a framework, organizing our experience. The emphasis is placed on the differences across and between cultures and the depths to which these can go.

Excerpt

I first learned of the work of Giuseppe Mantovani when he sent me a copy of his previous book, New Communication Environments: From Everyday to Virtual. Unexpectedly, from Italy, I encountered an exciting book that spoke directly to my interest in communication theories of mind. It placed artifact mediation at the heart of human communication, a process that occurs between people; in so far as human psychological processes are mediated through such artifacts, mind, as conventionally understood, must be seen as distributed across individuals, their human-built environments (their cultures), and their social groups. The quality of human experience depends crucially on what tools are ready to hand, and which can be created along life’s way.

The focus of New Communications Environments was on how to think about the changes in quality of human experience associated with contemporary digitalized telecommunication systems, a problem of great importance to the discipline of Communication. The present book is informed by Mantovani’s theory of how the human mind is conditioned by the media which help to constitute it. But Exploring Borders shifts focus. Mantovani’s goal in this book is to get us to “remediate” the way we think about culture’s role in constituting us as a person. He wants us to apply this new perspective to the urgent need for human beings to accommodate to/with “the other” in order to eradicate the plague of violence that has broken out in the post-Cold War world.

I have worked in the area of culture and human development for most of my professional life, so I am no stranger to the issues that Professor Mantovani discusses here. Many of the examples he gives to illustrate the principles of his approach are also a part of my tool kit for theorizing about the relation of culture and mind. Images such as Kenneth Burke’s description of life as like a cocktail party conversation, Jorge Luis Borge’s fantastical concoction of an exotic category system (which Mantovani shows is not so fantastical after all, or not in the way we thought it was) or the ubiquitous blind man and his stick, all serve for me as touchstones through which I recognize theorists who adopt a mediational theory of mind. . .

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