Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thinking about Culture

Dear All,

I would like to invite you to reflect on what culture is and how it shapes us.

Please also check out the following websites and videos and comment on them.

Thank you!


Here the links:









  1. What is culture and how does it shape us? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines culture as the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behaviour that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations. Although I can agree with many aspects of this definition, I have come to know and understand that culture is much more complicated than a simple dictionary definition meant to sum up such a complex concept. Additionally, I believe that the definition of culture is constructed by each individual and is therefore different to each person based on the meaning it holds to him or her. Culture is tied to our history, behaviours, environment, experiences, and our values. Culture is heavily linked to identity because both are influenced by the same factors and contribute to how the other is perceived, as stated by Meijl (Reading #1). In reference to Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, this article talks about the influence of the environment on the shaping of identity. It states that it is the comparison of self to others that shapes one’s understanding of who one is and where they belong. By comparing ourselves with those around us, we form a sense of identity. On the other hand, Byrad Yyelland (video #7) talks about how we view things that are “different” from us or “other” to be unsafe, unnatural, or bad. When we encounter people or ideas that are different, people have a tendency to stick with what they know and what is accepted. This is the danger of culture and the differences we perceive as a result of what we believe we know. 
Knowledge of culture is a reality that has been constructed in one’s head. When people around you change, it changes your perception of yourself. This is a big existential fear for all people, that they will loose their identity and sense of self as the world and people around them change. But we are always constructing meaning, and this changes who we are slowly over time, or even quickly under strenuous circumstances. This means that as the world around us is changing, so does our sense of identity and culture. So what is culture? Culture is the way that the past and present shape our views of the world and our actions. It is how we respond to social and environmental factors, and how those responses change who we are. It shapes our actions and reactions. It brings people together, and has the ability to tear them apart. Culture is complex and has many layers. Culture goes beyond what we can detect with our five senses, it is behaviours, patterns, and perceptions.

    1. Katherine, I have constructed a response to your comment, but exceeded the 4,096 character limit in doing so. I am therefore required to share my opinion through Google drive in the following link:

  2. Follow the link to see my comment: ----->

  3. I watched a few of the videos and this is my comment:

  4. Culture, according to my definition that is also one of the definitions on, “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group”. As an Asian UBC student, I’m constantly being influenced by Asian culture, Canadian culture, UBC culture, faculty culture or even social media culture. I believe all these cultures have shaped my characteristics in different ways. In my opinion, culture is something that influences our everyday decisions and actions.

    Through our own individual characteristics, we appear different to every culture. For example, in China, the business culture can be said as “unethical”. Thus the Chinese choose to sacrifice their fellows’ health with fake food for more profit, while Canadian would choose to provide healthy food for its fellow countryman at reasonable costs. In the Chinese eyes, the action of the Canadians have chosen is abnormal. However, in the Canadians’ eyes, the action China has chosen is wrong. This is an example to show how people with the same culture might not think there’s anything wrong because the culture is the same, their choice of action would be the same as well.

    When the cultures are not compatible, conflict might happen, and violence might result. In the previous example, the business culture of both Chinese and Canadians are not compatible. Thus, conflict on opinions arose. When conflicts arise, there are usually two results, healthy and unhealthy. In this scenario, the healthy ending would be Canadians interfere the Chinese food production culture through different trading systems, for example trade blockade. This would put pressure on Chinese government to be stricter about the quality of food production. With a stricter policy presented, Chinese culture might be changed in a good way due to interference of another culture.
    Even though the healthy ending sounds possible, but conflict might cause an unhealthy result as well. Since Chinese culture is a closed system, people are sensitive to interference of foreign culture. When people with Canadian culture, who practice moral business ethics try to help the people from suffering the bad quality food, these people who suffer might reject the foreign culture completely without considering if it’s a good action or not. With this attitude, additional culture interference would cause more conflicts between the two cultures.
    In this simple example, cultures can sometimes help or harm each other. Either way, culture is always shaping groups of people. With this population size on Earth, numerous cultures exist, and thus groups of people are shaping one or another every second. Whenever two cultures meet, there shall be changes made on cultures. When people choose to do differently, the world changes. With this constant change happening around the world, this world is actually changing all the time.

    1. Kathy, I completely agree with your premise that numerous cultures have shaped your characteristics in different ways, and that cultures aren't always compatible. However, I think that when cultures conflict, the healthier conclusion usually happens. In the case of the Chinese food quality, the Chinese would react to the difference by trying to improve their standards. As most people will agree, the Canadian standards of sanitation and food quality is more desirable than the Chinese, and thus, Chinese citizens will make the push for this change. In the case of the unhealthy outcome, if the power of Canadian embargo is enough, the Chinese will not risk the trade-off between better food quality and culture difference, and will thus change to adapt.

      Of course, this is a slightly more optimistic way of looking at it, but I think this is the way the world must operate in order to move towards equality and a higher living standard. I do wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion that constant change is happening around the world due to cultural clashes, but these cultural clashes are not necessarily bad, and generally end in an increased standard of living in the long run.

  5. I thought the TED talk “Identity in the 21st Century” by Byrad Yelland was very accurate regarding the culture of the 21st century. It is true we are not comfortable when people, ideas or actions do not fit our current schemas for these things. I liked his opening example regarding the stereotypical dress of women and men. People are often bothered when women dress like men or men dress like women. However, women’s and men’s clothing is really just a gender stereotype created by our society. Biologically the difference between males and females is simple. However, gender differences expand much further than our biological differences. Our culture also defines gender, by determining what clothes we wear, what jobs we have, how we act, even how we walk. As soon as we see a female undergoing something considered “masculine” in our culture, we are curious, similarly as when we see a male doing something considered “feminine”. We subconsciously judge that individual and make assumptions about them based on the definition of “male” and “female” created by our culture. This is slowly changing, as the world is becoming more open to variances in these definitions. Slowly, some openminded individuals are coming to the realization that gender is not simply as easy as someone being strictly “male” or “female”, other then on a biological level (which is also changing with the introduction of sex changes). Gender is a continuum, in which people can adapt based on their situation. This is consistent with Byrad’s point that our understanding of reality is impacted by what others do, and we are born with a tendency to maintain our ideas. This is a downfall of our culture, or any culture. I like his point that we create our own reality, but it is based on others definitions of reality. After hearing this talk, I have thought about my own construction of reality and I realize that my culture affects me everyday. My culture affects how I think of myself, and how I think of others. It has made me think about my opinion on my old friends that I had previously considered fraudulent. I like his idea that past relationships were real, until the construction of reality between us changed too much that they could not be embraced. This talk is a very good wake up, with new ideas that make you think about the true meaning of culture.

  6. I just finished watching the culture identity model by Sartaj Anand, and it's given me a new perspective in how great of a country Canada is. Although of course, as individuals, there are a lot of people still in need of a lot of work in acceptance, understanding, and tolerance of other cultures, as a country, I think we are doing fairly well. Consider this: We live in a free country where freedom of speech and mind is encouraged; how many other countries out there provides this? Now don't get me wrong, I'm not putting down any other countries right now, it's just that I feel very fortunate to live in Canada.

    I still remember my grade 8 year, where we went on a field trip visiting different religious places such as Sikh temples and catholic churches. That was a great experience for me because I would have never done it myself. But this brought up many questions that I wish could have been answered. There were many rituals that I knew they did, but did not understand why they did it. The education system in high schools should take a better initiative in explaining the different cultures present in Canada.

    That's the thing about culture, there's so many different aspects of it that it's almost impossible to learn all of it.

    But I guess in the end, it really comes down to the person themselves; whether or not they care about the beliefs and values of others is not something we can enforce.

  7. After watching Culture Identity Model by Sartai Anand, I learned that culture is always changing. I find this fact very convincing because it is an obvious trend to show. For instance, the culture that is displayed today is very contrasted compared to the cultures from the past. For example, fashion culture is changing almost everyday. The type of clothes that our generation wears is nothing like what people wore back on the days. This can be caused by the fact that we get the knowledge of what is popular to wear from social media like T.V. or friends. Back before social media, trends were just passed on from physical social interactions. The technology that we are blessed with today shape our culture in a way that changes the way we look. Culture is also shared. Someone in culture A can teach someone in culture B his or her traditions and so on. In a cultural perspective, outsiders, as in people who aren’t in one’s culture can only see the behavior, habits and actions. The hidden areas are the beliefs and values. This gets to the point of why one should not judge a book by its cover. Just because one’s culture displays different actions than another’s, does not mean that one’s values and beliefs are weird and or different. Beliefs and values are the most important features of a culture because it is what gets passed on to the next generation. This is important to keep the original culture alive.

  8. The Identity of Our Generation: Varun Bahl

    I think that Varun's talk wasn't very clear.
    first he mentions that the individuals of today in united states don't have a real identity, because they are all doing the same things. For example; studying, gaming watching TV and many other things that "you don't need to have an identity to do". I disagree with that completely because people watch different shows and movies that define their identity, people play different games that relate to what they love and that is their identity. And of course they study material in order to know more in a subject that Presents their identity. or study in order to pass the exam that will get them the job they want that that they want to be identified with. He claims that people that only do these things cannot lead, because they do not get involved enough. this is partially true, i agree that the gamers and TV watchers will not take our world to a better place but the people who study all day possibly can. but they all have identities, even a couch potato is an identity.

    Also I disagree with the examples that he gives with “people with identity” he uses a friend of his that works at apple and makes a lot of money or himself that he has an identity because he tried different things and now he knows that he wants to go into the medical field. to judge him by his values they don't have identity. cause today so many kids know how to play with an iphone and create apps. And don't know what is the demand to go to med school but its pretty high, so he is just like everyone else he has no identity.

    He did not speak about world travelers, now that is an identity, or mountain climbers or wildlife conservation researchers. he only spoke about the people who get into highly evaluated positions and make a lot of money.