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Communication and culture: cultural paradigms and referentials.

The communication has been observed, as a fundamental element of human existence, since ancient times. In fact, the real etymology of the term, suggests that the word, "communication" comes from the Latin word "communis," meaning "to agree," "being in relation with" or "being into a relationship," although the term circulates in the ancient vocabulary, meaning "convey to others," "to share something with others."

Starting with the original meaning of the German term "mitteileri" (to communicate, to transmit), Hans Georg Gadamer will define the culture, as a kind of communication (Mitteilung), meaning mit-teilen, to share, something with someone else which, by sharing, everything grows. "For a first step, the culture could be defined as a field that contains everything that grows by sharing. The external goods have such a nature that makes us feel lonely, and when the view is attracted only by them, we withdraw from reality in our souls." (1) Regarding this aspect, the German philosopher gives the example of a literary or philosophical work, translated into another language, communicated, transferred to another linguistic community, shared with others while it does not suffer a reduction by this division and remains equal to itself by enhancing and enriching with new meanings and significations.

Georg Simmel says the thing that leads us to understanding, the essence of the culture-communication relation is the sense of the language itself. "The culture is the way from the closed unit, by a large deployment of plurality, to another unit, deployed also." In any case, we are talking, only, about the evolution to a phenomenon anchored in the germinating ability of the personality, powers that are sketched out into an idealistic plan. And, here, the language as a case gives us a true guidance." (2)

By the communicational side, the culture is a social phenomenon, most of the recorded human culture, which is, in fact, the interpretation and conferral of meanings. The communication is not external of the culture; it belongs to its meaning and essence. The proof of this fact is that "the history does not know any closed or sealed culture, not even in communities or peoples apparently geographically isolated: Communication is a human's organic necessity, appeared from his nature, which is never self-sufficient, and it cannot be ontic or axiological by itself." (3)

Together, the individuals and social groups construct and consider their own identity by comparing with "other" or "others," due to intercultural relations. In this sense, the communication was considered as an emotional and sympathetic participation to their own existence ("existential communication" M. Heidegger or "real communication," K. Jarpers).

The concept of "interculturalism" (intercultural communication, intercultural pedagogy etc.), appeared in France, at the beginning of '70s, issuing, gradually, the idea that the differences are not obstacles, but, at the contrary, it could be a mutual enrichment, if we can base on it. This concept comes to meet the Canadian multiculturalism, which, as a difference of the assimilationist politics of other countries, already, at that time, valuing cultural diversity, but not putting into practice, mutual recognition devices. (4)

Intercultural communication requires, in this way, the knowledge and the understanding of some cultural facts, with language's aid, in many different forms that it takes. The identity is dialogic by its essence, because it cannot be built, than through dialogue, with the other, which means, that, the affirmation is inextricably linked to validation that it grants, it attached to it, --or refuses it--the other. Interculturalism questions the old way of managing the similarities--"differences report;" it "undermines both the boundaries, between I and non-I and the accompanying, the assignments operations." (5)

What it seems, "obvious" to us, is, actually, a construction of the world that belongs to environment. Each man has the conceptual tools that play the role of some deformed prism if you look at the others, at other groups or societies, only through them. These "filters" may be at the origin of some failures or some aberrant judgments.

Communication, either within the same culture or between members belonging to different cultures involves many difficulties, linked both to the signs system and to the ideational content (cognitive-scientific). Therefore, the essential question is "how can people, as bearers of a particular culture, to communicate and exchange ideas and, especially, feelings and beliefs, in a word of specific values (...) Or, in another formula, how is it possible that the man, who belongs, to a certain culture, to be under an intercultural communication?" (6)

We, often, refer to a universal scheme, by which all cultures could have been ordered. This happens, when we try to retrieve, in each of them, known elements, but in other forms (the mosque is a church or vice versa) or in a different stages of development. Communicating with another cultures, these become "mirrors in which we see our own culture." (7)

Thus, we arrive at a principle which corresponds to the very basis of any part of the world cultures and Tzvetan Todorov observed: "Interculturalism is a constituent part of the cultural." (8)

Cultural phenomena and processes of communication, as Jean Melons says, take part now, more than ever in any community life. Therefore, the attention that was paid by the researchers was directly proportional to the extent that they took and the importance they have proved it since the second half of the 20th century. (9)

At the same time, taking into account the role of media in communication processes of contemporary authors such as Douglas Kellner abolish the distinction between culture and communication, noting that what they believe should be available to each researcher: culture can only be communicative. He believes, that, the current period belongs to media culture, (10) a term which has the advantage of signifying both the nature and form of artifacts, of culture industries and their production and distribution (e.g., technologies and media industry). The term abolishes the artificial barriers between areas of "cultural studies" and "communication studies" and emphasizes relationship between culture and mass communication ways in the formation of media culture, thus abolishing the materialization of distinction between "culture" and "communication." (11)

However, the proximity between the fields of culture and communication is not just the result of technical or historical circumstances, even if the industrialization of culture and the development of mass communication have contributed to shifting borders, to changing actors or to confusing their functions. Mainly, vicinity of the two areas can be explained by factors related to economic and social organization and it is specifically justified by the appearance of goods, services and hybrid practices related to other areas. Different convergences of cultural and communication phenomenon is not just the merger activities--or their confusion over a certain age. For example, is not too happy the explanation that the birth of a new culture, based on image and computer, where the virtual and the here and now have replaced the intellectual mediation, is due to cultural and communication phenomena merge.

"In reality, culture and communication is a weird couple. None of them can be explained without the other. The two phenomena are not perfectly tight, they do not contain, and cannot be located in the parallel reflections plane, by analogical correspondence. The report of mutual inclusion (which can make that a communication process or a communication to emerge, as a cultural event), cannot be satisfied by any figure of duality (complementarity, opposition or difference)." (12) For example, advertising can be interpreted by its cultural significance, existent in itself, but can be interpreted as mediation support between the individual and its social or imaginary world.

But one thing is sure; communication came to be considered the "core of culture, knowledge and social behavior." One of the most important theorists of communication, John Fiske, wrote in his famous study Introduction to Communication Studies "communication is a central dimension of our cultural life; without it, any kind of culture dies. Therefore, the study of communication involves the study of culture wherein is integrated." (13)

Communication has become in a recent decades a research subject of several disciplines, collectively called conventional information and communication sciences. This relatively new field of knowledge is yet in a somewhat paradoxical situation: he receives recognition and support from political and social courts, without their having acquired a solid epistemological foundation, unanimously accepted. The field rather leaves the impression of a compositum, built of disparate disciplinary elements, proposing every paradigms or models of interpretation or explanatory theories in the basic concepts.

B. Miege therefore considers that the information and the communication sciences belong to the category of those "newly emerging disciplines, to which political scientist respondents commends them in an alleged excessive their presumed advantages, approaching their future with a lot of assuredness (but that) it works, without their legitimate members to be able to agree on a common conceptual basis." (14)

The situation of information and communication is even more difficult from the methodological point of view as their ambition as being considered theoretical sciences of excellence has been presented from the beginning. But temptation got a mimetic form: these disciplines have borrowed models or concepts of science whose legitimacy has long time been recognized, trying, to propose "powerful patterns," to provide "exigent theoretical bases." They borrowed scientific mathematical construction methods, systems theory or methodological paradigms such as structuralism.

Various theoretical models of communication have been made and they tried out the unification of various dimensions of communication situations. Only, after long efforts of mutual accommodation of different research perspectives seems to have constituted lineaments if not of a general theory, than of way of thinking with cross-disciplinary facets, called "communicative thinking." The unit of this kind of knowledge is trying to be so induced not by its object, but by the methodology in how practices are scientifically, technically and reflectively organized.

Such a methodological unification is characteristic for each of numerous "sciences of complexity" (generic name for the group of new disciplines that address self-evolutionary dynamic systems), which cannot agree with the unification process by reducing objects and their laws to entity and laws of the latter fundamental domain of reality.

Having as research object the different areas in their ontological substance, the unification of researches can only be given by a search of some method principles allowing not to decipher "the latest essence of communication," but of the structures that organize and make, effectively, different ways and forms that represent human communication.

When we talk about communication, it is important to notice that we are not dealing with a study subject, but with a multi-disciplinary area of study. This way of looking at the subject (the multi-disciplinary area) suggests that the difficulty comes (in part) from the fact that psychologists and sociologists say that human communication and human behavior have little to do with what to specialists in other areas--for example, of criticism literary.

In order to clarify this confusion, we will go from a few assumptions which John Fiske inventories:

1. The field of communication can be approached and understood, but it is needed for an approach from many disciplines;

2. There include any communication who involves signs and codes; signs are acts or deeds (works of art) that refers to something, other than themselves (construction signifies). Codes are systems in which signs are organized and determine how they can be related signs;

3. These signs and codes and are made to be available to others; transmission or reception of signs or codes, communication is the practice of social relations; (15)

For these reasons, Douglas Kellner, one of the authors frequently quoting from the works of John Fiske and agrees with this view that the distinction between "culture" and "communication," is rigid and arbitrary and that it should be broken down and analyzed. If "by culture, we understand artifacts of high culture artifacts, the way of life of individuals, the context of human behavior or whatever, then culture is inextricably linked to communication." (16)

Thus, communication can be considered as "message transmitter," but, also, as transmission and exchange of meanings, as well as cutting activity, distortion and creating meanings (senses).

Like message transmitter, the communication between people can be studied as a process, we inquire how the transmitter (receiver) encodes (decodes) the message, how emitters using means and channels of communication, and efficiency of message sent (assessed through feedback). But this approach is not the only possible communication.

As John Fiske, (17) observes, in the study of communication there are two schools: the school 'process' and the semiotic school.

The school 'process' considers the message as what is transmitted through the communication process. The message is what is sent from A to

B, properly packed and ready to affect state and/or thinking of the receiver. This guidance considers communication as the transmission of messages. It is concerned with the way in which the transmitter and receiver encodes and decodes, the way in which transmitters use channels and media. It is interested in aspects such as efficiency and accuracy. It considers the communication as a process that affects behavior or thinking (intellectual state) of another. When the effect is different from that followed than expected, this school is talking about failure in communication; it aims to establish stages to detect where the failure occurred.

The most important representatives of these guidelines come from the United States; they propose analytical models of communication, that are instructive in terms of the gradual awareness in communication theory, of cultural cargo (Cultural Loading) of any communication acts: Lasswell (1948); Shannon and Weaver (1949), Newcomb (1953), Gerbner (1956), Westley and MacLean (1957), Jacobson (1960).

The semiotic school approaches communication as the production and exchange of senses (meanings). It is preoccupied of how messages (or text) interact with people to produce senses (meanings), which mean that it is concerned with the role of text in our culture. It uses terms such as significance and does not consider by all means as obvious sign of failure the misunderstanding in communication. This misunderstanding may occur as a result of cultural differences between the transmitter and receiver. For this school, the study of communication and culture is the study of the text. The main approach is the semiotic approach.

The most important contributions to the emergence and development of semiotic school were signed by Charles S. Pierce and, of course, Ferdinand de Saussure, whose General linguistics course was published posthumously in 1916. Each of the two founders of the school had significant followers: C. S. Pierce, continued by Odgon and Richards (1923) and Saussure by Dane L. Hjelmslev, and Ronald Barthes (1968 and 1973) and Pierce Gouriaud (1975).

Therefore, "school process" defines communication closer to common sense of the term "process by which persons enter into relation with others and they are affected either intellectually or in the emotional or behavioral plan. The semiotic school defines communication in a broader sense; it is a complex and distant sense of commonsense meaning.

The school of the communication process tends to aim for the social sciences, especially, psychology and sociology, and to focus on acts of communication. The semiotic school revolves around the topics of linguistics and art and it focuses on assembly of everything related to this communication. Each school interprets in its own way the definition of communication as social interaction through messages. The first defines social interaction as a process by which a person is in contact with others, affecting their behavior, intellectual or emotional response status. This definition is closer to the common understanding of the communication, the daily use of the word. Semiotics, however, defines social interaction that everything is done, individually, as a member of a culture or society.

In this paper, we approach the communication from both perspectives, for exclusivist preference, one of them appears detrimental to our goal. Of course, when we analyze the link between the nature of language and the nature of communication and understanding, to we to the "process school;" when we deal, however, with the cultural determinism of communication, using our concepts and Gonseth Kuhn (paradigm, respectively referential), we think in terms of semiotic school that emphasizes biunique constant interaction between the message "producer" and the reference system, between it and the "reader."

The ambivalence of our approach is justified by both bivalence communication, in generally, and also by bivalence own to intercultural communication, it meets both aspects: both affect the thinking of the party and the production and exchange of meanings (always culturally determined). Addressing both issues seems of utmost importance to intercultural communication theory, especially for managing and improving communication between different ideologies.

The definition of concrete-historical language, as evidenced by "nonrigorous" puts into question the possible conditions of communication. Formulated into Kantian terms, this matter can be put, as question: Can we believe with rational justification in the possibility of Communication (of authentic communication)? The question is legitimate, because most people have been accustomed to think that their differences (so-called "communication accidents"), related to linguistic incompetence of speakers --or, in a more general plan, by their communicative incompetence (which can be caused by ignorance, emotional, conjectures or atypical situations--for example, pathological conditions). On the other hand, the question comes naturally, when, we see how some cultural barriers theorists reach a radical relativism, so, that, the only conclusion of a rational analysis seems unable to authenticate communication. In other words, "barriers cannot be removed."

In this regard, it is conclusive the example taken by Emmanuel Pedler's in his essay Sociology of Communication, (Chapter "Communications and intercultural conflicts" (18)) who considers the articles of John Gumperz, presented under the title "Lets link the conversation," (19) a good introduction to interactional sociolinguistics. Particularly, pertinent to highlight the linguistic conflicts related to cultural pluralism, as it is experienced in a modern societies, this approach emphasizes the central importance of incompleteness in the daily changes, unexplained content of verbal interactions often drawing on stereotypical forms and, therefore, idiosyncratic, and horizons waiting variation of interlocutors. (20)

The link between interindividual and intercultural communication becomes apparent when we understand the culture within the paradigm of cultural anthropology--for example, as E. B. Taylor, T. Parsons or Chombart de Lauwe defined it. In the introductory study for Images de la culture volume, called Sistemes et valeurs et aspirations culturelles, Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe classifies the culture approaches as follows:

1. culture as development of the person in society;

2. own culture of social media companies or private;

3. problem of developing a universal culture. (21)

It is evident that of the three approaches, one that does not require a prior assessment and which does not necessarily lead to cultures hierarchy (companies, groups or individuals) is the second. It will, also, be privileged referential of an intercultural communication approach, as best fits its objectives. In approach 2) is entered, predominantly, Anglo-Saxons culturologists.

Thus, E.B. Tylor meant by culture "complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs and all other possibilities and practical acquired by man as a member of society." (22) A famous anthropologist, founder of the school, F. Boas, he adds: "products activities of human communities due to their practices." (23)

Widest acceptation (and most appropriate for this analysis) is given by T. Parsons, where culture is "an organization of feelings, beliefs," representing "the common values, that, are essential to a system of a company's own action." (24) Parsons does not do anything but to operationalize in the paradigm of actionalism, what Max Weber said: "The concept of culture is a valuable concept in the sense of a close connection between values and symbols that cause material changes with their consequences." (25) We intend to continue this operationalization, by introducing concepts of problematic technique, cultural and referential cultural paradigm. Focusing on the role of infrastructure generating aspirations and values systems, Chombart de Lauwe believes, that, "culture is marked by a series of models, image-guided, the representations to which the members of society, in their behaviors in work them in their roles and in their social relations." (26) He draws attention to how important is the they have great techniques, spatial organization, production and labor or consumption, within same culture.

The above mentioned acceptation allows us the approach including ideologies (including nationalism) as forms of cultures, which makes the methodological level, ideology analysis ideologies. To analyze or interpret an ideology just as ideology condemns us to use also ideological tools.

Any non-culturological approach of an ideology is, fatally, paradigmatic, that all ideological. The same level (ideological) approach becomes circular; it would pave the way for communication, but would provide to dogmatic ideologues new "arguments" and new opportunities for confrontation. The culturological approach favors a beneficial decentering of vision, allowing a neutral language in relation to competing nowadays ideological languages.

From this perspective, any individual appears as the bearer of a culture (subculture, sub subcultures, etc...), and inter-communication--as an intercultural one. (27) Thus, the issue of communication between individuals and between groups becomes a problem of effective communication and mutual understanding between cultures. The searches towards overcoming barriers in intercultural communication focus not only on institutional communication (between governments or between national organizations), but also on well-defined communication between cultural communities with a well-defined identity (between linguistic communities, ethnic or religious): they take into account any act communication, including international professional (where there appear barriers in communication because national cultures).


(1.) Gadamer, Hans-Georg (1999), "Cultura si cuvantul." In vol. Elogiul teoriei Mostenirea Europei. Iasi: Polirom, 26.

(2.) Simmel, Georg (1998), Cultura filosofica. Bucharest: Humanitas, 211.

(3.) Stroe, Constantin (2007), Filosofie: Cunoastere, Cultura, Comunicare. Pitesti: Pamantul, 276.

(4.) Ferreol, Gilles, Guy Jacquois (2005), Dictionarul alteritatii si al relatiilor interculturale. Iasi: Polirom, 367.

(5.) Vinsonneau, Genevieve (2002), L'identite culturelle. Paris: Armand Colin, 60.

(6.) Rosca, Ioan N. (2008), Introducere in antropologia filosofica. Bucharest: Editura Fundatiei Romania de Maine, 54.

(7.) Pop, Doru (2002), Introducere in teoria media. Cluj-Napoca: Dacia, 169.

(8.) Todorov, Tzvetan (1989), "Nous et les antres. La reflexion francais sur le diversite humain," Paris: Seuil, in Gilles Ferreol, Guy Jacquois, op. cit., 61.

(9.) Jean Caune, Cultura si comunicare. Convergente teoretice si locuri de mediere. Editura Cartea Romaneasca, Bucuresti, 2000, 15.

(10.) Douglas Kellner, Cultura media. Institutul European, Iasi, 2001.

(11.) Ibidem, 48, 68.

(12.) Jean Caune, op. cit., 17.

(13.) John Fiske, Introduction to communication studies. Routledge: London-New York, 1988, translation, Introducere in stiintele comunicarii, Polirom, Iasi, 2003, 16.

(14.) Bernard Miege, Gandirea comunicationala, Editura Cartea Romaneasca, Bucuresti, 1998, 12.

(15.) John Fiske, op. cit., 15-16.

(16.) D. Kellner, op. cit., 48.

(17.) John Fiske, op. cit., 16-19.

(18.) Emmanuel Pedler, Sociologia comunicarii, Editura Cartea Romaneasca, Bucuresti, 2001, 25.

(19.) J. Gumperz, Engajer la conversation, Paris, Minuit, 1989.

(20.) E. Pedler, op. cit., 25-27.

(21.) P. H. Chombart de Lauwe, Images de la culture, Petit Bibliotheque, Paris, 1970, 14.

(22.) Ibidem, 17.

(23.) Ibidem.

(24.) Ibidem, 18.

(25.) Max Weber, Essais surt la Theorie de la Science, Paris, Plon, 1965.

(26.) H. Chombart de Lauwe, op. cit., 19.

(27.) Dumitru, Bortun, Bazele epistemologice ale comunicarii, Editura Ars Docendi, Bucuresti, 2002, 99-107.


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Author:Miulescu, Viorel
Publication:Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice
Article Type:Report
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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