Saturday, December 11, 2010

Week 8: Final Paper

Identify and explain interpersonal, collective and/or institutional discrimination.
            Our book states, “The behavior that results from stereotyping or prejudice – overt actions to exclude, avoid, or distance oneself from other groups – is called discrimination” (Martin and Nakayama, 2011, pg. 60).
Discrimination may be look upon from an interpersonal, collective, and/or institutional approach.  “In recent years, interpersonal racism seems to be much more subtle and indirect but still persistent.  Institutionalized or collective discrimination – whereby individuals are systematically denied equal participation or rights in informal and formal ways – also persists” (Martin and Nakayama, 2011, pg. 61).
So what does that really mean?  In my opinion discrimination is just another way people separate themselves from another class/culture in order to try to prove themselves superior.  And as we’ve witnessed throughout history, discrimination has brought hardships and exclusiveness to the world
Interpersonal discrimination differs from collective and/or institutional discrimination solely on the basis that interpersonal discrimination is from a single individual.  Institutionalized and/or collective discrimination, on the other hand, is formed and carried out by a group of people.
            Sadly, our world is still living with discrimination.  Some people/groups may justify their personal discrimination(s) as nothing more than a ‘preference’ but nonetheless it continues to prove itself as unwelcoming of other cultures.

How do the choices we make about popular culture influence the formation of our cultural identity?
            As we have learned from our lesson on popular culture, today’s trending forms of our American culture may not be the same tomorrow.  Our country is constantly shifting popular cultures from one ‘fad’ to the next.  Whether it be the type of television shows we watch, the music we listen to, or the social networking circle we communicate in, our popular culture has spent time focusing on many different forms of entertainment and news throughout the years.
            As we (Americans) live in a contemporary world of pop culture, cultures outside of our own may look upon on us in differing eyes.  Certain cultures have been very consistent over the years in what they deem acceptable and right and may frown upon our forever changing trends.  In their eyes we are forgetting the sacred ways of our forefathers and that is simply unforgivable.
            Nevertheless, the American cultural identity is one that we have all become familiar with.  We have learned that the people of our culture redirect to new forms of popular activities over time and our cultural identity changes with each shifting.  Therefore, we are in a cycle between popular culture and cultural identity. Our culture creates an identity alongside our identity creating a culture.

How might different attitudes toward work lead to intercultural communication conflicts?
Conflict is simply a clash of values.   By adding ethnic, geographic and lingual diversities to the clash of values, intercultural conflicts can be tricky within a workplace (Teo, 2006).
Every culture (even person) has their own attitude toward work.  Some view work as a source of income and only that.  Others see jobs as a source of happiness.  And others view the work environment as a place to learn and grow for greater opportunities.  
Within any workplace, you’ll almost always find people with one of these differing views.  And with these different attitudes, intercultural conflicts tend to occur between co-workers.  In these situations, it is best to respect the values and opinions of your co-workers in order to maintain a cohesive environment and minimize the occurrence of conflict.
Describe your plan to become more interculturally savvy in communication.
            After taking this course and learning certain techniques, my method to become more interculturally savvy within communication is simple:  Practice.  I’ve quickly realized that no one will ever be completely perfect at communication, but with practice one can become skilled within the field.  The more a person throws themselves into conversations, the more they can listen and learn from the others around them.
I also plan to use the Internet to its full advantage.  With free websites and endless information, the Internet is the quickest way to read about other cultures.  If I ever learn that I’ll be working with someone of another culture or traveling somewhere exotic, I’ll be sure to do my research before I introduce myself to a new culture.  This way I can appear more in tune with others as well as welcoming of their outlooks.

Is it possible for two people to communicate effectively if they don't speak the same language? How?
Of course it is possible.  Language barriers are sometimes difficult to understand, but with the use of nonverbal cues and tone afflictions, people are capable to comprehend what their other party is saying.
                For example:  The movie, “Love Actually” has a storyline in which an American male author (played by Colin Firth) is writing a story while overseas.  His house attendant (played by Lucia Moniz) is Portuguese and in the scene, captured below, the two speak with one another in their home languages. (To watch the following clip --> Love Actually: Bilingual Conversation)
As you can see, the two humorously speak about the same things without even knowing it.  Then Aurellia (Moniz) begins to act out her question in order for Jamie (Firth) to understand.  Ultimately, the two have a successful conversation without having to know the others language.

Overall Feeling About This Class
            I feel this class has given me great knowledge regarding intercultural communication.  It was a pleasure to work with my classmates and learn from their insight as well.  Thank you Mr. Howard for a wonderful class. 


Love Actually. Dir. Richard Curtis. Perf. Alan Rickman, et al. 2003.

Martin, Judith N. and Thomas K. Nakayama. Experiencing Intercultural Communication. 4th. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.

Teo, Ange. Intercultural Conflict in the Workplace: Every Organization's Nightmare. 13 12 2006. <>.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Week 6: Gran Torino Analysis

“One thing we can be sure of is that conflict is unavoidable.  Conflicts are happening all around the world, as they always have, and at many different levels” (Martin and Nakayama, 2011, pg. 224).  Conflicts are not only seclusive to differing cultures, but can often occur within similar cultures as well.  For this week’s writing assigment we were asked to watch the film Gran Torino, starring Clint Eastwood, and reflect on the conflicts and popular cultures within the story line.

Cultural Conflicts
1.      Walt Kowalski has an underlying cultural conflict residing in within himself.  The life he once lived as a soldier conflicts with his desired culture of living a pleasant life.  His combat past haunts him and keeps him from pursuing a peaceful life.

In the film, Walter speaks to Father Janovich and says, “The thing that haunts a guy is the stuff he wasn't ordered to do.”  Within these few small words, Walt describes to Father Janovich the chaotic mindset that keeps his life forever haunted.  His former culture, in turn, has kept him from progressing into a more desired culture.  (Eastwood, 2008)

I would describe this type of conflict as intrapersonal because it deals solely with one person.  People are capable of being at war with themselves and I feel that Walt’s character very much is.

2.      Throughout the film, gangs are presented.  Each gang (or culture) feels they are superior to others and bully and/or violently threaten the lives of others in order to affirm their dominance within the city.

In one specific scene Thao Vang Lor is walking home.  While on foot, a car full of Hispanic gang members pull aside Thao and begin to hassle him. Thao’s cousin, Spider, catches a glimpse of this from around the corner and immediately rides in to defend him. As a member of the Hmong gang, Spider and his fellow car-mates begin to quarrel with the Hispanic gang members.  After many foul words are exchanged, the two gangs present weapons they intend to use on one another.  The Hispanic gang then drives off before declaring defeat from the Hmong gang. This particular conflict is left unresolved.

The implied justification of conflict between the two gangs most likely has to do with ethnicity and (possibly) stereotyping (Martin and Nakayama, 2011, pg. 234).   But because the audience is presented with this conflict only for a few minutes, it is hard to determine what the core of their gang-related conflict really is.

3.      Throughout the movie, Walt seems incapable of speaking to his sons without criticizing their every thought.  When his two sons, Mitch and Steve Kowalski, talk at their mother’s funeral Steve says to Mitch, “The point I'm trying to make is that there's nothing anyone can do that won't disappoint the old man, it's inevitable” (Eastwood, 2008).

Over the course of their lives, a conflict of value has resulted between father and sons.  (Their ideologies are just too different.)

Popular Culture
Popular culture constitutes a strong reputation within a culture (Martin and Nakayama, 2011, pg. 202).  Within this film I feel two cultures strongly depict a type of popular culture: 
(1) Gangs and (2) the Church.
The film illustrates town members forcing to make a choice as to which popular culture they will follow.  They can follow a path of religion and live peacefully or they can choose a path of constant feuding by joining a gang.  Either way, the town has become divided and both opposing cultures seem to be constituted as a popular lifestyle.

Ending: Gran Torino
            In all honesty, I believe the ending of this film was noble.  Walt sacrifices his life in order to save Thao and Sue’s family from further harm.  His courageous act not only places the entire Hmong gang behind bars, but also ends the conflicts between the Thao and Spider, and Walt with himself.
            When it comes to the severity of the Hmong gang, (threatening the lives of innocent people) it seems that no other action would work effectively.  Walt uses a dynamic style of conflict resolution.  He is confident using strong language and seems comfortable with emotionally confrontational talk.  In the end, Walt becomes a hero in his efforts to resolve the conflict.
            Of course it is always sad to see a major character die, but in this case I believe it is the only true way to end the film.

Overall Feelings/Conclusion
            Overall, I thought Gran Torino was an empowering movie.  The film depicts actual scenarios of cultural conflict that can be found in today’s world.  And because of these scenes, the film becomes relatable in the sense that events like this may actually occur.
            Out of all the characters, I found myself to be the most like Sue.  She is strong-minded and sometimes a little too cocky with her words.  I, on occasion, have found myself in similar situations where I have spoken out of my comfort level in order to seem more confident.  Sue is also smart, trusting and seems to deeply care for her family.  I like to feel that she and I are very similar in this sense.
            If I could change anything:  Well, I wish that Walt didn’t have to die, but I understand why the movie was written this way.  His sacrifice opened opportunities to the Lor Family.  Other than this, I believe the movie was very powerful.
Gran Torino. Dir. Clint Eastwood. Perf. Clint Eastwood. Prods. Clint Eastwood,
Bill Gerber and Robert Lorenz. 2008.

Martin, Judith N. and Thomas K. Nakayama. Experiencing Intercultural
Communication. 4th. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.