[Air-l] intercultural communication

Charles Ess cmess at lib.drury.edu
Sun Mar 31 03:34:00 PST 2002

 With apologies for self-promotion...
Fay Sudweeks and I have been collecting research on culture vis-a-vis
technology and communication for nearly six years now.  Several papers and
related chapters from our conferences - "Cultural Attitudes towards
Technology and Communication" (CATaC), beginning in 1998 - have been
published in a variety of places, including special issues of the Electronic
Journal of Communication (on the www.cios.org website), AI and Society
(1999), Javnost (1999), and new media and society (if memory serves: vol. 3,
no. 3 - September, 2001)
Our book, _Culture, Technology, Communication: Towards an Intercultural
Global Village_ (with a foreword by Susan Herring), made up of CATaC'98 and
related papers, was published by SUNY Press in 2001.
We're just finishing the reviewing process for CATaC'02 - in Montreal this
July 13-17.  There are a large number of excellent papers from a range of
cultural contexts that will be accepted for presentation.
I'm sorry I can't give more precise details - including the URL for the
CATaC'02 conference.  The joke is - I'm in Thailand currently, relying on an
Internet cafe for e-mail.  Certainly good enough for most purposes - but all
the appropriate data is in my (unconnected) laptop.
The Thailand connection is worth mentioning as well: there is a conference
here in a few days on "Information Technology and the Universities of Asia."
I can tell you that in preparing for my talk - yes, indeed, there's more and
more good research on the differences (and similarities) between cultures
vis-a-vis IT.  
Indeed, in my own research, it was the conflicts between Western and Asian
cultures that first began to pop up on the scholarly radar screens,
suggesting that these cultural differences were significant - especially as
obstacles to the more sanguine (if not imperialistic) visions of an
"electronic global village" that at least North Americans happily swam in in
the 1980s and (early-to-mid?) 1990s.  Some of the earliest discussions of
this that I have found are from around 1990.  But there still was very
little - no more than a handful of articles - so far as I could tell by
1998, when we held our first conference.  Since then - though I do not any
special claim credit for this - the literature has dramatically expanded and
Thailand is a particularly appropriate place to consider these things - the
Thai language presents notorious problems for Western-based computer systems
(beginning with the problem of no standardized system for transliteration
into Roman characters).  At the same time, my friend and colleague, Soraj
Hongladarom (Chulalongkorn University) has presented what I still find to be
one of the most helpful models for conjoining a global communication medium
with uses of IT that preserve and enhance local cultural identities.  Yes,
you can find his chapter in our book (smile!).  
This interesting hybrid model may have something to do with Thai culture
itself.  It is, with Japan, a country that has never been militarily
colonized, but represents the (relatively) peaceful amalgamation of a range
of cultures and peoples - not only the various Thai peoples, more narrowly
speaking, but also Chinese and (East) Indian peoples/cultures/religious
traditions.  The famous Chinese gods of prosperity, happiness, and longevity
sit comfortably next to numerous Hindu gods and goddesses - and larger
buildings, from luxury hotels to Police Headquarters are marked by spirit
houses for propitiating what religion scholars categorize as animist
entities.  A Japanese worshipper offering incense to the Hindu elephant god
can also calmly take a call on her cellphone: there seems to be no sense of
lines crossed - if there is much of a Western sense of lines at all.
(I realize that this comfortable pluralism is characteristic of many Asian
societies: I can't say how far Thailand is distinctive in this.  If I make
any progress in this direction of research, I'll happily pass it along.)

In any case, if you'd like more details, please e-mail me privately and I'll
respond more fully as soon as I can.

With all best wishes from Bangkok,
Charles Ess
Interdisciplinary Studies Center
Drury University
Springfield, Missouri 65802  USA

-----Original Message-----
From: Lokman Tsui
To: air-l at aoir.org
Sent: 30/3/45 6:47
Subject: [Air-l] intercultural communication


I was wondering if anybody knows of any
prior research / literature about intercultural
communication mediated over the internet
or other electronic media, in specific between
the west and asia.

i came across the following:

Ma, Ringo, ??Computer-Mediated Conversations as a New Dimension of
Intercultural Communication between East Asian and North American
Students,?? in Susan C. Herring (ed.), Computer-Mediated Communication:
Linguistic, Social and Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Amsterdam,
John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1996. pp.173-185.

Lokman Tsui
National Taiwan University / Leiden University

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