key themes in interpersonal communication

Colonization is often subtle in nature and we may take for granted the cultural expectations of the society into which we have been born and spent many of our formative years. It is when we encounter other cultural expectations that we often become most aware of our own cultural assumptions. Today there are many reasons why we may come aware of other cultural expectations: through travel, for business or leisure, and as a consequence of the forces of immigration and emigration, for example. We are also exposed to a considerable amount of information about other cultures through the mass media. The process of encapsulation is arguably most fraught for those who have been socialized into one societal culture but then find themselves having to adapt, for an extended period of time or permanently, to another.

The greater the contrast between the cultural assumptions and expectations, the more problematic the process of adapting to the requirements of the new ultra IS likely to be and, arguably, the more significant the consequences for an individual’s communicative competence. The process of encapsulation, however, is very complex and multi-faceted for within cultures are to be found subcultures and co-cultures and the processes of colonization found within them interact with those of the main societal culture. Subcultures can be viewed as alternatives to the dominant culture within a society, for they generate their own norms, traditions, values, and beliefs while sharing some of those of the dominant culture. They may also SE non-verbal communication and language to establish and maintain boundaries between the subculture and the dominant culture as well as to express subcultures identity.

Subcultures embody the reactions of a social group to its experiences within society and its members are often those to whom society awards low, subordinate and/or dependent status: youth, for instance. Some subcultures and their members may even be labeled as deviant: CEO-warriors might be an example here. The term co-culture is also employed to refer to those groups that generate significantly different patterns of behavior to those found in the dominant culture. The term, arguably, does not carry the suggestion that these patterns Of behavior are less worthy than those of the main culture and reflects the aspirations of multicultural, pluralistic societies in which respect for individual rights and lifestyle choices is professed and, to some extent, protected in law.

However, a counter-argument might be that the term co- culture can mask the real differences in power, influence, status, norms, values and beliefs that may exist between groups, and may underplay the gap that can also exist between tolerance and acceptance. Some theorists point to the decline of subcultures, and the certainties found thin them, and the rise of post-subcultures, reflecting, perhaps, a post, modern world. Post-subcultures reflect the, ‘fragmentation, flux and fluidity’ of contemporary experience in the Western world, particularly among the young (Megaton and Wineries 2004: 3). Allegiance to obstreperously is viewed as less permanent than that to subcultures: allegiances may shift over time.

In the case of youth culture, for example, allegiances may be based more on tastes in music and fashion than on socio-economic position. It is argued that the influence of Immigration, travel and global media (the Internet in particular) have produced an array of cultural hybrids and diversity of styles, tastes and political causes that call into question the degree to which youth culture today displays the solidity traditionally associated with youth subcultures. Whatever the term adopted it should be acknowledged that the wider social groups that individuals belong to can be important coloratura variables, that impact on communicative behavior.

Further, coloratura differences can be a source of resentment, antagonism, conflict, misconceptions, misunderstandings, stereotypes and prejudice and as such have considerable attention to create barriers to successful interpersonal communication. The postmodernist perspective is that much of contemporary Western culture, like contemporary Western societies, is fluid, fragmented and transitory in nature. Thus it challenges the notion of a clearly defined dominant culture and thus subcultures. Denis McLain argues that from this perspective, ‘Postmodern culture is volatile, illogical, kaleidoscopic and hedonistic’ (2005: 131 It is highly commercialese and driven by the mass media.

However, postmodernist thinkers differ in their view of the degree to which this is the case. The apparent superficial nature of culture presented here, although capturing perhaps the nature of popular media culture, seems to question the existence of the more solid social structures, roots and relationships from which everyday culture develops. However as Samovar and Porter (2004) and McLain (2005), among others, point out, there remain robust underpinning social, political and economic structures and movements with the potential to exert a powerful influence on everyday life and how it may be lived. About this book We have worked as a team and what you read here has been the result of much discussion between us.

However, individual members have taken responsibility for particular chapters: James Watson for ‘Communication by design’; Anne Hill for ‘Explorations of the nature of identity, ‘Groups, roles and identities’, ‘Social identities’ and ‘Cross-cultural communication’; Mark Joyce for ‘Non-verbal communication, culture and consumption’; and Danny Rivers for ‘Identity, culture and outsiders’. We start with an examination of some of the key models designed to capture the complexities of the communication process. These models provide frameworks of explanation of how the elements of the process may fit gather. They also help us to conceptualize the points of contact between the process of interpersonal communication and the negotiation of self- identity.

While points of contact are suggested by the authors, as you read through the book you should be able to make many more for yourself. Models covered range from that of Lasses to Seigneur’s model of communication and identity. Transactional analysis, though not a model, is also considered given its potential to explain the dynamics of interaction. We move on in Chapter 2 to explore a number of theories that seek to explain he nature of the self and self-identity and the implications for the role of social interaction in shaping a sense of self-identity are raised. A key theme in this chapter is that the construction of identities is problematic in contemporary Western societies.

Individuals typical Ill undertake a great deal of their interaction within groups and Chapter 3 examines the relationship between group roles, identity and communicative behavior. Aspects considered in this chapter include the nature of groups, roles and personae, impression management, interaction analysis, status differentiation and dervish in groups, conformity, group performance, inter-group conflict and cross-cultural differences in communication within groups. The use of language and non-verbal communication to construct and perform social identities is explored in Chapter 4. The focus is on four key social identities: ethnicity, social class, gender and sexual identities.

Topics covered include British Black English, multicultural London English, dialect, accent, gender differences in communicative styles and competences, permittivity, materiality, queer theory and queer linguistics. Chapter 5 examines the elements of non-verbal communication -? elements thought to be universal. However the rules for display of non-verbal communication and the meanings attributed to the various non-verbal signs often vary across cultures. It moves on to explore the potential for non-verbal signs for expressing aspects of identity – subcultures identity, for example. This exploration extends to a consideration of the signaling properties of consumer goods and their potential contribution to the construction and display of identity.

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