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Week 2 Reading: ‘Communication and Culture’

‘Communication and Culture’ [in] Communication and Cultural Literacy: An Introduction. Shirato, T & Yell, S, 2000.

This reading introduces the terms communication, culture and cultural literacy (see below).

Communuication: understood as the practice of producing meanings, and the ways in which systems of meaning are negotiated by participants in a culture.
Culture: understood as the totality of communication practices and systems of meaning.
Cultural Literacy: understood as both the knowledge of meaning systems and an ability to negotiate those systems within different cultural contexts – a ‘feel’ for negotiating cultural rules.

(Shirato & Yell, 2000.)

The relationship between culture and practice is understood through the example of Bourdieu’s metaphor of the journey and the map. Here, the journey is seen to be practice (also performance of cultural literacy) while the map refers to rules and conventions. Cultural literacy comes into this as a system used to make your way through a culture.

An interesting example used in the reading is the explosion of a US space shuttle in 1986. I found it interesting that the disaster was suggesting as coming down to an issue of cultural literacy… e.g. “Had the engineers had that wider cultural literacy, they would have known that any attempt to sway management needed to involve treating the launch not as a technical problem, but as a PR exercise.”

The text suggests that the disaster was not simply caused by a lack of communication (i.e. inability of engineers to communication problems to management before launch)… but not knowing how to communicate effectively with management to assure that problems would be fixed before the launch.

But the general gist of the reading comes down to the idea that cultural literacy is essential when considering the use of communication within communities.


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