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What is culture?


dimreepr
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Culture is the broad collection of individual actions and the patterns that result. All culture overlap and all cultures diverge. The “line of demarcation” where this occurs is unique to each. 

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Language must be one of the clearest demarcations. Not only is it a natural barrier to understanding, but also influences how we actually think. I'm learning a second language for the first time in my life and's interesting how much more of a very different culture i am able to understand.

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Culture is considered to be apparent in many non human animals. Knowledge passed down in some way that the animals do not gain by simply being born is culture. In some animals like Killer Whales or Elephants individuals separated from their pack or heard never manage to gain knowledge they need to function as a group or details about their environment they would need like migration routes or a way to kill specialized prey. Various groups of social animals have differing ways of dealing with the same problems and passing this knowledge down is considered culture. 

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10 hours ago, dimreepr said:

At what point do our cultures differ?

 Define what you mean by different cultures. In the US culture changes between the north and south east and west. Sometimes from one state to another, barbeque between coastal NC and the mountains of NC is likely to start and argument, maybe a fight.. 

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Seems to me differences in  cultures are more 'defined'  by  their  beliefs of  limitation.

ie; If  a human culture is viewed as an identity in its own right, in opposition  to humanity in general, it must be defined by what it excludes in that definition of its 'self'.

By the amount of diversity it  allows  its identified space.

Edited by naitche
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11 hours ago, iNow said:

Culture is the broad collection of individual actions and the patterns that result. All culture overlap and all cultures diverge. The “line of demarcation” where this occurs is unique to each. 

An crucial aspect is its malleability, due to social learning processes being at the heart of its transmission. Many cultural norms and elements change rapidly, other at somewhat slower rates. It is virtually never static, though.

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14 hours ago, dimreepr said:

At what point do our cultures differ?

   At any arbitrary place you choose. Continent to continent or region to region, country to country or state to state, even town to town. In big cities kids think they have some definable difference from other teens a few blocks away and will fight to express it. There have always been self-imposed selective attitudes among all societies throughout history. How the Romans viewed themselves and how they viewed everyone else is an example. What do you think of if I say European cultures or oriental cultures, I bet everyone pictures something different for each region. Is it a beautiful temple goddess in India or would it be a kimono clad girl in Japan, or is it one of the many other untold possibilities. The line could be drawn at the last two survivors of a vanishing island people in the South Pacific or everyone who resides inside the boarders of China.    

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19 hours ago, dimreepr said:

At what point do our cultures differ?

Culture is a common philosophy to act upon.

It will differ in every individual, as the cultural philosophies trigger individual perception and action, based on the person's other past experiences.

 

Edited by Lasse
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Much like behavioral isolation, geological isolation, and temporal isolation work in evolution, cultural differences would seemingly work the same way, wouldn't it?

Different languages would be for the most part behavioral isolation. If you never interact because you don't speak the same language, then your culture will differ.

Geological isolation would be for the most part just that, geological isolation. Same concept. If you never interact because you live so far away, then your culture will differ.

Temporal isolation would be for the most part different time zones. If you're not up and talking to people because of different time zones, etc, then your culture will differ.

 

 

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I keep thinking of the concept of corporate culture and how specific leaders at the top manage to dictate group expectations and behavioral norms of all those below them (and how this tends to apply regardless of organization size, whether there are 9,000 employees or 109,000).

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18 minutes ago, iNow said:

I keep thinking of the concept of corporate culture and how specific leaders at the top manage to dictate group expectations and behavioral norms of all those below them (and how this tends to apply regardless of organization size, whether there are 9,000 employees or 109,000).

If want to get up to the the top, or advance, you have to behave like those higher up. It's called 'The Brown Nose Hypothesis'.

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2 hours ago, iNow said:

I keep thinking of the concept of corporate culture and how specific leaders at the top manage to dictate group expectations and behavioral norms of all those below them (and how this tends to apply regardless of organization size, whether there are 9,000 employees or 109,000).

 

1 hour ago, StringJunky said:

If want to get up to the the top, or advance, you have to behave like those higher up. It's called 'The Brown Nose Hypothesis'.

But you must also factor in what nature has put in place to challenge such redundancy. One out of every 100 employees could probably qualify as a sociopath. Some estimates put it at 1 in 25.

https://draxe.com/what-is-a-sociopath/

"Roughly one in 25 Americans is considered to be a sociopath, according to Harvard psychologist Dr. Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door". 

These individuals salted throughout the corporate organisation are likely undermining the honest efforts of any well meaning management. Each of these individuals would operate for their own benefit. Its when they work from the top position down the behavior sometimes produces levels of maleficence that garners headlines and indictments that bring the whole lot down.

But mostly people just rise to their level of incompetence and remain there to the detriment of all who must suffer the consequences.   

 

 

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As some members have pointed out the ultimate demarcation point is the individual but I don't think that answer is valid. Not only does it stop a reasonable philosophical question in its tracks but I don't think it's true; we're a social animal amongst many others as moony pointed out.   

It's clearly on a spectrum. My local village, for instance, competed in many ways with our neighbouring villages, as did my local town, county, region etc. But there's no meaningful cultural difference, if we take out the 'artificial' polarizing factors (yes I know), but I think a simplified question may be interesting to explore.

On 4/1/2018 at 3:59 PM, Prometheus said:

Language must be one of the clearest demarcations. Not only is it a natural barrier to understanding, but also influences how we actually think.

 

But language is far too near the upper extreme on the spectrum; England, America, Australia, Canada etc...

Quote

I'm learning a second language for the first time in my life and's interesting how much more of a very different culture i am able to understand.

I sorta know what you mean, the closest I got was reading Les Miserables - Victor Hugo, two books in one, the story and a biography of the culture. Highly recommended and without spoilers. :)

Edited by dimreepr
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18 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

But language is far too near the upper extreme on the spectrum; England, America, Australia, Canada etc...

The problem is that it's not always possible to make precise measurements of something on a spectrum so we make do with categories. We have to draw the line somewhere, wherever we draw it will be somewhat arbitrary. Type 2 diabetes is a good example, some people are more insulin resistant than others, and even those without it can can classed as having pre-diabetes. All a matter of where we draw the line, usually based on practical things like treatment options (type 2 used to be classed as insulin or non-insulin dependent - still is someplaces).

It would be better if we could measure culture as a continuous variable, but how on earth could we do this in a meaningful way? So we stick to categories for now and which categories you use will depend on what question you are addressing. I think language would be a useful demarcation for certain questions. 

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I don't think any metric you use for measuring culture will be cogent.I don't know what questions, you'd need to ask a sociologist. I'd be surprised if they didn't use language for a metric for some things though. It's where i'd start anyway.

How would you measure culture?

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1 minute ago, Prometheus said:

I don't think any metric you use for measuring culture will be cogent.I don't know what questions, you'd need to ask a sociologist. I'd be surprised if they didn't use language for a metric for some things though. It's where i'd start anyway.

How would you measure culture?

Touche.

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9 hours ago, dimreepr said:

As some members have pointed out the ultimate demarcation point is the individual but I don't think that answer is valid. Not only does it stop a reasonable philosophical question in its tracks but I don't think it's true; we're a social animal amongst many others as moony pointed out.   

It's clearly on a spectrum. My local village, for instance, competed in many ways with our neighbouring villages, as did my local town, county, region etc. But there's no meaningful cultural difference, if we take out the 'artificial' polarizing factors (yes I know), but I think a simplified question may be interesting to explore.

Here you are talking about the general categorization problem of things with (mostly) arbitrary demarcation. There is no clear way to assess validity, rather each definition would require its own context and reasoning. Ultimately trying to categorize these elements are only useful or used in certain contexts and can be of any level. 

Competing local regions can highlight cultural differences as significant based on history (e.g. a proudly protestant city in a catholic region).  They can institutional manifestations (say private protestant schools and colleges) and may even have at some point significant political and other consequences (up and and including participation in wars). Yet on a different scale it would not matter, the whole region can be considered homogeneous as they have been within the border of the same nation. 

What is somewhat worrisome is that this ability to but boundaries at any level are often used to draw boundaries to other people, even those living in the same regions. And more often than not, the same folks also imply something immutable in the context of cultural values. Thus, they imply that it is almost something intrinsic to certain people and are thus the same as natural differences. 

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Culture is most of the above, and maybe more.  But i particularly agree that Language goes a long way to define culture.  I lived and worked 6 years in the 'German' speaking part of Switzerland, and had to learn to gt along with the local dialect of German in order to do my job well.  The biggest benefit to learning parts of the local language was that I began to understand the local jokes.  So-- I became convinced that if you want to understand a culture you must learn enough language to understand the jokes.  Culturally specific humor goes a long way toward encapsulating the essence of a culture.

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