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Module 2 Presentation Readings Assignments

Go back to Part 2 - Developing A Common Culture
Go back to Part 1 - What is Culture?

The Functions and Effects of Culture

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1) Culture limits and liberates us

2) Culture defines, divides, and unites us

Culture shapes the way we think, feel, and act. And mass media helps create that "culture"

Saturday Evening Post
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©Saturday Evening Post

Culture limits and liberates us.

Traditions and learned behavior help us know how to act.

Our ideas of right and wrong are shaped by our culture. And our culture can be influenced by the media.

Rodney King Video
Rodney King video

Should I burp loudly after a meal?
Yes in Arabic culture, no in Western. (At least, that's what they showed in "Ben-Hur").

Should I urinate on a wall in public?
It's OK if you're in an Adam Sandler film.

Forming the ideas of right and wrong is one of the most important aspects of "culture". If we learn right and wrong from our campfire, our home and our "tribe", can we keep those ideas when we're exposed to different cultures?

And if we aren't exposed to them at our campfire, our home, or our tribe, where do we learn them? Which storyteller is influencing our culture? To what "tribe" do we belong?

But each of us has many different cultures.

Our personal culture - who we are when we're "being ourselves."
Our family culture - who we are when we're with our immediate family.
Our bounded or subculture - who we are when we're around friends.
Our dominant culture - who we are when we're "out in public."

This ad for Surge clearly shows the distinction between family culture and bounded culture.

The dominant (or public) culture is the one accepted as "socially appropriate" by the majority of society.

But, in modern society, more and more people use their "personal" or "bounded" culture in public.

This ad, from LaBatt, shows the problems when bounded cultural behavior spills over into a dominant cultural setting.

This conflict between culture and setting can cause personal and social tension. Our "dominant" culture provides us with directions on how to "act properly" in public. These are elaborate and accepted social "rituals." But when we see someone acting in public according to their "bounded" or "personal" culture, we don't know OUR role in their ritual. We don't understand their private rituals and don't know how to react.

The uneasiness we feel around other cultures isn't necessarily bigotry. It can reflect our confusion about our role in unfamiliar rituals.

This ad, from Boost, shows the unsettling effects of mixing expected ritual with unexpected behavior.

The Functions and Effects of Culture

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©2011, Terry Dugas

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