Fielding Graduate University
Research Poster Session at National Session 2011
Culture Talk: Cultural Referencing By Work-Related Dyads -- Keith Ray, Alumnus (2009), School of Human and Organizational Development
The history of culture studies has evolved from a trait approach to cognitivist and constructionist approaches. This study suggests that a social constructionist approach such as the Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM) holds promise by considering context, local knowledge, and the dynamic nature of culture. CMM is derived in part from the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein who argued that language is performative and people do things with words. Culture is no exception. Rather than look for universals of culture or define significant cultural differences, this study examined what people are doing when they talk about culture. Specifically, this study used CMM to explore the processes of cultural referencing and what work-related dyads construct when cultural stories are told.
Seven dyads viewed videos or read dialogues of cross-cultural interactions that were either ambiguous or contained conflict. Through conversation, the dyads attempted to make sense of what they saw. Participants referenced culture in order to understand and evaluate the actions of others in the scenes. By telling stories that included cultural references, participants implicated and explicated culture and created a common meaning and action system. Participants used culture as an explanation for observed others’ actions.
In this study, participants told stories of culture, of people in the scenes, of real other people, of cross-cultural interaction, and of self. The participants co-constructed these stories using self-reflection and cultural references. In doing so, they often used hedging language as they talked about cultural differences and created a pattern of moving toward or away from culture as an explanation of what they saw. Referencing culture became a bridging function between the social worlds of the participants and the behaviors of the actors in the scenes. Participants used cultural references to mediate coherence across their social worlds. This study also examined how the participants struggled with ambiguity and conflation of culture, race, nationality, and ethnicity.
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