Culture and Communication
In The Silent Language, Edward Hall’s (1959) seminal examination of non-verbal communication, it is ambiguous asserted that “culture is communication and communication is culture,” (217). Though this statement is obviously lacks for broad explanatory power, Hall nevertheless aptly articulates the crucial roles that culture plays in communication research. From its role in theories of communication to its treatment as a both the independent and the dependent variable in experimental studies, culture shapes the nature of what communication researchers, and speaks to the very heart of what communication is. This literature review will first briefly mention the historical origins of culture in communication research, and identify what has become the primary area of quantitative communication research into culture: intercultural communication. Next, we will examine the definition of culture that intercultural communication researchers have adopted. Last, we will explore how this definition is applied through an exploration of the variables, levels of analysis, and other salient dimensions of communication.
History & Motivation
Even before Hall’s pithy equation of communication with culture, the earliest Communication scholars had identified the importance of culture in matters of communication. As Delia (1985) noted, Chicago sociologists were actively concerned with understanding how the flood of immigrants entering American cities at the turn of the century would integrate within this new society. In these earliest studies, communication was seen as a way to shape a culture that would allow immigrants to feel more American, with a unified culture acting as a mechanism for mitigating conflict, and arriving at consensus between among immigrant groups. Similarly, during the economic and social growth following World War II, communication was thought a crucial lever for molding a shared culture for the booming U.S.
Lazarsfeld (1948) acknowledged a slightly different substance of culture, emphasizing the role of mass communication in maintaining, rather than disrupting or creating new forms of, culture. In both these views, communication was something that shaped cultures, and as something that could be used to creates social order.
From a slightly different angle, culture has also been seen as something that could prevent mutual understanding between among individuals, or even cultures. Schramm (1971), for example, noted that, "The similarity of meaning which Mr. A. and Mr. B. will perceive in a message depends on finding an area where the experience of the two people is sufficiently similar that they can share the same signs efficiently," (30-31).
Building on the above, culture has been studied from both the quantitative and qualitative divides of communication. To limit the scope of this review, we rely heavily on Hall's (1992) categorizations in [i tk]Theories of Communication in...