It is known that intercultural communication, as a discipline that studies the relationship between different cultures and social groups, or how culture affects communication, describes a wide range of communication processes and problems that naturally arise within any organizations or a social context consisting of individuals from different religious, social, and ethnic groups. In this sense, intercultural communication seeks to understand how people from different countries and cultures act, communicate, and perceive the world around them (Martin & Nakayama, 2018). In the process of intercultural communication, each person simultaneously solves two major problems – strives to preserve own cultural identity and to join a foreign culture.
Structural and functional relationships between culture, communication, and society allow considering intercultural communication as a major factor in socio-cultural changes. It distinguishes one society from another, promotes its integration, and gives it a cultural identity. Intercultural communication provides the accumulation and transmission of socio-cultural experience, enables implementation of the possibility of forming socio-cultural ties based on the interaction of cultural subsystems within society, individuals within one culture, or at the level of intercultural communication, as well as between different and diverse cultures. Acting as a factor of socio-cultural changes, intercultural communication reveals the ability of a particular culture to perceive foreign cultural elements and to translate its values into other cultures. It contributes to the constant expansion of the semantic potential of culture, the differentiation in it of “ours” and “others” (aliens) and appears to be the most important condition for the conscious social activity of people. In turn, the information, which makes up the content of the process of communication does not exist alone, but in an inextricable relationship with the cultural picture of the world available to each side. Taken together, the cultural picture (perception) of the world and communicative information form the context of the communication process.
The importance of the communicative function of culture was emphasized by the representative of modern psychological anthropologist R.A. LeVine (1974). He used the term ‘culture’ to refer to an organized set of rules on the basis of which individuals contact each other, think about themselves, about others, behave in relation to another and to the objects of their environment (Reimann, 2019). These rules are not universal and they are not always accepted, but they are recognized by all and usually limit the number of variations of communication models in the population. Similarly to models of communication, the models of interaction between individuals, social behavior, values and beliefs regarding the world of external and internal experience are limited by the explicit or implicit rules.
Culture exists, develops, is transmitted and comprehended through communication. With the change in reality and traditions, the entire communication system changes. In this regard, cultural communication is the process of interaction of elements in the “culture” system with each other and the entire system with the established mode of production and consumption of cultural products (Martin & Nakayama, 2018). The possibility of cultural communication is inherent in the “culture” system itself.
In turn, culture is the cementing principle of society. Often, namely it is called upon to form the ideology of the state and, in the absence of such, replace it. Naturally, culture is closely related to power relations in society. Power is the organizational and regulatory, as well as control beginning of politics, a form of social relations that can affect the nature and direction of the activities and behavior of people, social groups through economic, organizational, and legal mechanisms, through ideological tools, and through violence, traditions, authorities, etc.
Power is present in any culture, from ancient “mythological” times to the present day, since every human community cannot exist and all the more so develop without organization. When organizing and self-organizing human activity, people enter into various social relations, among which the relations of power are among the most important. Regardless of whether the power relations are realized or not yet, they manifest themselves in cultures and affect, explicitly or implicitly, other social relations, personal behavior and communication.
Power is achieved by pursuing a certain politics, which is the sphere of relationships between social groups, nations, individuals for mastering, strengthening, organizing, retaining and using power. In turn, politics, to one degree or another, affects culture; therefore, those forms of culture that did not escape this influence, became politicized entities. Politicization of culture means that different cultures become the conductors of one or another ideology, political course, ideas of civicism, etc. – in other words, they lose their relative independence. Culture can no longer be, so to speak, outside politics – it becomes a function of additional fastening of society ‘accountable’ to the state.
Power relations that underlie social institutions are formed in the minds of people mainly in the course of communication processes. The influence on minds, the formation of consciousness is a deeper and more stable form of domination than power over the body through intimidation or violence. Communication practices include interpersonal communication and mediated communication. At the societal level, namely mediated communication creates a symbolic environment in which people perceive, process, and send signals that form the meanings of their lives (Reimann, 2019). The dynamics and effects of mediated communication are determined by the culture, social organization, and technologies of specific communication systems.
However, with the advent of digital communication, the transformation of communication and the subsequent changes in organization of society and in culture profoundly affected the way how power relations function. Castells argues that free communication is the most subversive practice possible, as it challenges power relationships rooted in public institutions and organizations (Castells as cited in Reimann, 2019). The world of communications is a social sphere in which the values and interests of conflicting actors collide in order to reproduce or undermine the social order, or to adapt to new forms that arise as a result of the interaction of the old and the new. The global communications that have become possible in the current digital age of the Internet, in the era when every citizen can fulfill the role of civic journalist influencing the minds of people, have the potential to change cultural attitudes, context, and later power relations, as the events of the Arab Spring, with its “Twitter revolution,” have clearly demonstrated. Thus, it can be concluded that in the array of variables “Culture, Communication, Context and Power,” communication is the primary one. One might say, it is an independent variable that determines changes and convergence of cultures, a change in context and, as a consequence, a modification of social attitudes of society right up to a radical change in the system of power relations.
Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2018). Intercultural communication in contexts. McGraw Hill Education.
Reimann, A. (2019). Culture, context, communication: Critical incidents for raising cultural awareness. Intergraphica Press.