Academic journal article Visible Language

Visual Culture and Visual Communications in the Context of Globalization

Academic journal article Visible Language

Visual Culture and Visual Communications in the Context of Globalization

Article excerpt


The fact that groups of people reflect different cultural traditions and economic and social backgrounds should begin to challenge the myth of universality of human experience and the social relationships, cultures and values that emerge from it. An intercultural communication process, developed to foster and support a positive approach to globalization would foster sensitivity and care between peoples in a potent, reciprocal process.

Each culture creates its own universe of symbolic meaning that structures and shapes the perception of reality which members of a specific clan or society experience. It is already a yeoman's task to decipher the complex web of interactions between anthropological, sociological, historical and cultural forces. This becomes exponentially exacerbated in multicultural communication and intercultural discourse. Modernist approaches to communication design do not support intercultural communication as they ignore the culture-destructive forces of globalization, by infiltrating and eliminating languages, removing customs and ceremonies, changing indigenous cultural values and social relationships and forms of expression. This article critically examines the limitations of communication design as currently taught and practiced.


Linguistic globalization has existed as long as missionaries of powerful religions and emissaries of dominant governments have brought their social and cultural beliefs to others and tried to persuade them to abandon the particularities of and commitment to their own culture and transfer them to the virtues of another, or when it was in the interests of all parties to avoid conflict. Each culture has developed concepts of truth, value and merit, power and taboo. These socially constructed beliefs are honed, refined and sharpened, evolving over the culture's existence and are embedded in everything that the culture needs to maintain its inner equilibrium, establish its identity and present itself to other cultures. When in the intercultural exchange, messages do not tightly fit within the framework of indigenous value systems, the exchange is not only one-sided, but also not mutually beneficial; it is destructive.

Traditionally, verbal and textual communication have been recognized for their elaborate intricateness and complexity, even more so within intercultural communication activities, especially since most languages behave as closed systems, depending on indigenous cultural roots in religious and philosophical thought, technical evolution, specific potentialities facilitated by emancipation, quality of dependencies, interdependencies, independence from leadership, etc. Communication science primarily explores the dependencies on spoken and written languages, and the problems between oral and document dependent traditions. At court, oral and written testimony obtained from witnesses is notarized and forms the basis for initial declarations of fact around which truth is negotiated and established. When it comes to signed treaties, they are as dependable as the ethics of a culture is to its self-image in relation to another. In many parts of the world a contract is still sealed with a handshake, signaling the integrity of parties. Although visual or pictorial testimony is allowed, most is restricted to scientific presentations of facts. Because of western dependencies on textual contracts at court, within government and most academic institutions, understanding information processing within images (seeing, reading and interpreting) has been grossly neglected.

'Globalization,' the amalgam of interactions of a complex group of social phenomena that evolve in particular social contexts and settings, is assigned a very cursory and opaque nomenclature. This veils the magnitude of negative impact on small and fragile cultures, namely the greater unilateral gain of control by powerful cultures, and an unfortunate change in cultural characteristics from diversity to sameness. …

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