Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cultural Convergence Theory


Comparing the salad bowl to the melting pot metaphor of US 
culture, one distinguishes the uniqueness of each culture
more evidently in the left image than the right. 
The term convergence is defined by Kincaid (2009) as "movement toward one point, toward another communicator, toward a common interest, and toward greater uniformity, never quite reaching that point." This last point - never quite reaching that point - is what distinguishes convergence from a singularity. As a popular corollary to US culture, you might consider convergence to be more like the salad bowl metaphor (separate parts, all in an US culture) as compared to the melting pot metaphor (separate peoples all blended together as one US culture).

Why converge at all? Converging to one point helps us create mutual understanding of who were are as a nation and a people - making sense of our borders as less geo-political and more socio-emotional. Kincaid's convergence model was initially meant to address shortcomings of transmission-based models of communication, but we can expand it to look at cultural convergence (a topic address thoroughly by MIT scientist Henry Jenkins, specifically in reference to new media). From the reading, we see two tenants of CCT at the aggregate (re: cultural) level:
Theorem 1: In a relatively closed social system in which communication among members isunrestricted, the system as a whole will tend to converge over time toward a state of greater cultural uniformity.
Theorem 2: In a relatively closed social system in which communication among members is restricted, the system as a whole will tend to diverge over time toward a state of greater cultural diversity.
So, when you think about communication so far - in particular, your interactions in Erfurt compared to Amsterdam? How might you define the cultural diversity of each location? Can you look at the cultural 'openness' and 'closedness' of each system and explain your thoughts about the diversity in each system (or lack thereof)? I'll look forward to your thoughts on this one. 

Kincaid, D. L. (2009). Convergence Theory. Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. (pp. 189-192). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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