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High context and low context conditions

Published by DragonGrim in the blog DragonGrim's blog. Views: 103

Low context culture:
“Low context refers to societies where people tend to have many connections but of shorter duration or for some specific reason. In these societies, cultural behavior and beliefs may need to be spelled out explicitly so that those coming into the cultural environment know how to behave.” – Website, Culture at Work

My argument against sociology continues. First off, I’ll go over some aspects that I accept.

Education: when a Westerner goes to college, she is instruction to communicate freely and concisely. She will learn to organize her thoughts logically, and to bring her full brain to any conversation, even if she is to converse with her superior – the opposite of a military or high context society, where to whom you are speaking to will dictate your behavior. Not to say that Western Culture is zero context. She may joke freely with a coworker and then become more reserved with her boss.

Small, isolated groups are always high context verbal communicators because they have so much shared knowledge and usually a structure with holy men and leaders who command deep respect. The Native Americans for instance, once had a very high context to their communication, and still do. Much is implied rather than spoken outright. Some cultures manage to preserve this way of interacting, such as the Japanese.

It seems open and shut, until you look closer, and then it falls apart.

Is the United States really low-context? Americans are taught to speak relatively low context, and in the business world this holds true. But moving away from verbal communication, what about the written word? Are books in any culture low context? The books do detail actions and characters in a clear manner, but even in school, the importance of symbolism will be stressed. When I think of popular books, such as The Wheel of Time, I picture very complex ideas, many left unsaid – just accept that it is a fake world where history is being manipulated (where it is mirrored and considered completely removed at the same time), where magic is real, etc.

I will not even go into video games or television.

What I’m wondering is this: Do sociologist depict entire cultures as low or high context purely on their business habits? Or are most of them Western-Culture educated and somehow blind to their own culture?
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