Some thoughts on culture and communication, Part 2


<Continuation from Part 1>

The Cultural Game

Another popular form for looking at culture is in the form of game or play. Some people who promote this model are Johan Huizinga and Wolfhart Pannenberg. The following is not following their ideas. I am just pointing out that the analogy of culture and play is not far-fetched.

P People Group corresponds with Team
N Natural World corresponds with Field of play
C Culture corresponds with Game objectives
S Society corresponds with Rules of the game

An ideal game would look like Figure II. The Field of play and rules of the game are identical. The game objectives are opposite. That is, one team seeks to (for example) protect goal A and put the ball in goal B, while the other team seeks the opposite. Finally, the Teams are approximately evenly matched. In People Groups, this arrangement would describe two cultural groups that are part of the same overall society and the same natural world. However, the cultures are not compatible so there is a competitive state. It should be noted that this ideal situation is not very realistic. With very different cultures, there would be a tendency to have changes in both society and natural world. But one could imagine situations that approximate this situation. One can imagine two social classes in a given community… the “Haves” and the “Have Nots”. One culture seeks change while the other seeks to maintain the status quo. This is not perfect. The society and natural world would be modestly different for the two people groups even if they share the same geography.

Figure III can show a different interaction. If the same culture and society is shared (or very similar) but have very different natural world, there would be no competition. Using the game analogy, the two teams share the same objective, follow the same rules, but are playing on different fields of play. One can also imagine a Franchise Arrangement. Two different franchise locations operate the same way, with the same manual of operationg and the same objectives, but operate in different geographic markets. No competition. For people groups, it could be like people groups that are the same in every way except that they live in different areas so that there is no direct competition for resources. This can be looked at as two or more communities within a monoculture.

cultural-work-2Figure II. Ideal Game

 cultural-work-3Figure III. Franchise Model

Figure IV is the option where two groups share the same culture and natural world, but with very different societies. This is a bit hard to imagine. Take the sports analogy. Two teams operate with the same objective, and the same field of play, but with different set of rules. Imagine two teams on a basketball court. Both are trying to score in the same basket, but one is following the normal rules of basketball, while the other is generally following the rules of netball or international handball or lacrosse or something. There is going to be conflict, but the conflict is likely to be chaotic. One would also expect it to be temporary. For people groups, one might expect there to be conflict and chaos. If two people groups share the same natural environment as well as culture, and yet have very different rules and institutions, it seems unlikely that this state would last for long. One is reminded of the generally unsuccessful attempts to apply shariah law (one of its several forms) in a multi-religious setting. The shariah law is supposed to only apply to members is the Islamic faith. However, the tension of such an institution that is only binding for part of the society simply has never worked out very well. In the end, national law dominates shariah law or people try to apply shariah law universally. In more general terms, one people group could dominate and marginalize or absorb the other group, or the different societal institutions and norms would drive the two cultures apart.

cultural-work-4 Figure IV. Unstable Interaction

Consider the four Figures. These are four different interactions. The first is non-interaction. The next three show interaction on two vertices. There are other options of course… such as where there is only one shared vertex. But instead of wearing anyone out showing all of those options, one could use Figure I as the more generic case for those other options.

<Continued in Part 3>

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