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The paper is devoted to the topic of communication in globalized online and offline environments. The major aim of the literature review is to derive major theoretical implications and set out a theoretical framework for the workshop related to the problems of transcultural communication within organizations. The paper also includes the discussion of major findings and suggestions for further research.
The motivation for the Workshop
According to Palmer (2013), an increasing number of international contacts in globalized and networked organizations has led practitioners and researchers to an understanding that “cultures are not homogeneous entities interacting across distinct boundaries” (p. 382). Schenker (2012) states as well that the globalizing world is characterized by the merging of cultures and dissolving of borders and notes that, in this type of environment, effective transcultural communication and competence are of critical importance.
Considering that online communication becomes one of the primary means of cross-cultural interactions at the workplace, this suggestion is similarly pertinent to well-functioning in both the offline world and cyberspace.
To ensure efficient transcultural communication, individuals and organizations should show appropriate behaviors, skills, and attitudes, and comply with congruent policies that help to enable effective work in cross-cultural environments. Although in this situation, it is important to acquire and improve foreign language skills, apart from this, a person should necessarily develop the awareness of “the nation’s worldview” and cultural peculiarities (Vladimirovna & Saha, 2017, p. 160).
As stated by Almutairi, Adlan, and Nasim (2017), the understanding of cultural values, behavioral, and communicative characteristics associated with specific cultures is at the core of multicultural competence. The lack of such specific knowledge and the ability to deal with transcultural ambiguity may be detrimental to organizational well-being and growth in the international environment.
In the online sphere, “the competence to manage the linguistic and cultural communication… requires the activation of several resources in terms of knowledge, attitudes, and skills by those involved in the interaction” (Daryai-Hansen & Schröder-Sura, 2012, p. 26). It means that interlocutors should be aware of the complexity of cultural identities and accept them, should appreciate linguistic contacts, and implement their language skills relevantly to the context.
In other recent works, the term “cultural identity” also plays a critical role in the research of transcultural communication. In the framework of Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimensions, it is considered that national identities, as well as cultural traditions and values themselves, are formed under the influence of various social, political, and historical factors and are passed from one generation to another (Picart, 2014).
In this way, different societies and cultures largely differ from each other, and their differences are always manifested in communication and define collocutors’ expectations and responses. For example, Reeves (2012) states that, when using online communication fields, representatives of distinct cultures tend to have different spheres of influence, i.e., private or public. It means that some people will share various types of information willingly and seek connections with the public (e.g., Americans), while the others will have a low need for doing this (e.g., Germans) (Reeves, 2012).
Due to distinct values and perceptions of individuals from the contrasting cultures, conflicts are virtually inevitable in transcultural interactions. However, conflicts should not necessarily be regarded as a negative phenomenon. It is apparent that while some core parts of the cultural identity may be almost immovable and unchangeable, others may shift throughout the dialogue. As Holmes (2014) observes, “through dialogue individuals have the possibility to (re)negotiate and (re)construct their positions and identities within and across groups” (p. 2). Thus, collocutors should strive to recognize and negotiate both the similar and different qualities of each other.
The findings mentioned above should be considered in communication that takes place within work-related cyberspace because, along with globalization, it challenges “the traditional attributes of cultural identity’ such as “temporality, territoriality, contrastivity, interactivity, and multiplicity” (Chen, 2012, p. 5). This observation implies that the online communication field is characterized by a high level of ambiguity and heterogeneity.
Some researchers even regard new media as the basis for the creation of the third hybrid culture and development of virtual cosmopolitanism (Chen, 2012). Nevertheless, in the present-day situation, when the creation of cultural and personal identity is still largely defined by traditional factors, communication in the online sphere poses multiple challenges. Additionally, various issues of ethical character, e.g., the disclosure of personal information, cyber-bullying, etc., may only jeopardize transcultural communication. Thus, along with the development of cultural competence, one should consider the specific features of communication contexts and environments.
The findings of the literature review revealed that the Internet defies the traditional approaches towards transcultural communication within enterprises. Although employees may still have distinct cultural identities, in the online communication field, they will likely be influenced by new online properties of temporality and territoriality which will require and stimulate the formation of new knowledge and patterns of behavior.
Workers will have to start with the acquisition of language skills. Although employers usually hire those candidates who are “not linguists” but have “strong professional competency,” foreign language skills become predominantly important in the globalized world (Kubota, 2013, p. 2). However, as the derived theoretical implications suggest, it is impossible to maintain transcultural dialogues based only on language proficiency. One needs the cultural competence, also titled by some theorists as a “super competence” − “ability to transfer messages between linguistic and textual systems of the source culture and linguistic and textual systems of the target culture” (Cano, 2012, p. 156).
To achieve this goal, workers should engage in cross-cultural research which may help them to bring out characteristic features and peculiarities of distinct cultures and communication behaviors associated with them. Such activities may be largely stimulated and supported by an encouraging organizational culture. Thus, the involvement of the management and the implementation of a holistic knowledge management strategy can be beneficial.
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Additionally, many issues related to work-related online communication require further investigation. For instance, like culture-specific facial expressions and postures, it is observed that the use of online non-verbal cues such as emoticons is largely defined by the culture (Park, Baek, & Cha, 2014). The awareness of such culture-defined cyber-communication features and semiotics represents another level of cultural competence and requires a certain degree of expertise and attentiveness from a collocutor.
Moreover, when learning how to communicate effectively online, one should consider multiple ethical concerns associated with virtual reality including social morality, privacy, freedom of speech, anonymity, opposition to censorship, and so on. Perceptions of these problems may significantly vary in different cultures. However, it is possible to assume that, because of the inherent qualities of the cyberspace discussed before, these issues may be regulated through the creation of a unified collective consciousness that may be actualized by the online media at the workplace.
Almutairi, A. F., Adlan, A. A., & Nasim, M. (2017). Perceptions of the critical cultural competence of registered nurses in Canada. BMC Nursing, 16, 1-9.
Cano, A. G. (2012). Becoming a translator: The development of cultural and intercultural competence in Spain. Cultus. Journal of Intercultural Mediation and Communication, (5), 154-170.
Chen, G. M. (2012). The impact of new media on intercultural communication in global context. China Media Research, 8(2), 1-10.
Daryai-Hansen, P. G., & Schröder-Sura, A. (2012). FREPA – a set of instruments for the development of plurilingual and inter-/transcultural competences. Cultus. Journal of Intercultural Mediation and Communication, (5), 20-36.
Holmes, P. (2014). Intercultural dialogue: Challenges to theory, practice and research. Language and Intercultural Communication, 14(1), 1–6.
Kubota, R. (2013). ‘Language is only a tool’: Japanese expatriates working in China and implications for language teaching. Multilingual Education, 3(1), 4.
Palmer, Z. B. (2013). Cosmopolitanism: Extending our theoretical framework for transcultural technical communication research and teaching. Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, 43(4), 381-401.
Park, J., Baek, Y. M., & Cha, M. (2014). Cross-cultural comparison of nonverbal cues in emoticons on Twitter: Evidence from big data analysis. Journal of Communication, 64(2), 333-354.
Picart, C. S. (2014). Cross-cultural negotiations and international intellectual property law: Attempts to work across cultural clashes between indigenous peoples and majoritarian cultures. Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, 23(1), 37-65.
Reeves, J. (2012). Perceptions and interactions on Facebook: Germans and Americans. Anxiety, openness, flexibility, privacy, growth and change. Cultus. Journal of Intercultural Mediation and Communication, (5), 113-131.
Schenker, T. (2012). Intercultural competence and cultural learning through telecollaboration. CALICO Journal, 29(3), 449-470.
Vladimirovna, K. N., & Saha, A. K. (2017). Association experiment as one of the tools of forming secondary school students’ socio-cultural competence. Journal of Psychosocial Research, 12(1), 159-166.