3rd Station – Surface culture
You need to be online (with audio) to watch some short films and carry out some research. You will also need to have a pen and paper to hand to capture your thoughts, a copy of the Cultural Iceberg/ Cultural Tree Worksheet and – ideally – access to a kitchen and a range of cooking equipment and ingredients for the activity at the end.
Each of us is the product of a broad spectrum of cultural influences. Some of the cultural references that influence our behaviours derive from our nationality, or the country in which we live. But others stem from our race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic situation, education, family, friendship groups, teams…. In fact every group of people that comes together regularly has a culture.
And every cultural group maintains certain customs that are unique to that group; those cultural norms you can easily identify. So how do we begin to distinguish and understand the cultural influences that form the basis for our social interactions? We start with what we can see.
Take a moment to think about the cultural influences in your own life, and the ways in which other people might be able to see those influences at work. What do you do, where do you go, what activities and pastimes do you participate in, what customs and practices do you observe? What are the tangible, material ways in which your own cultural influences are expressed in the activities of your everyday life? Note down some of your thoughts.
Watch and Learn:
Now watch these three short films about Culture and, as you watch, consider the following questions (and make some notes):
- Why is culture important?
- What is surface culture and in what ways is it expressed?
- Did you cover every aspect of surface culture in your earlier notes?
- Is there anything you want to add to your list?
Why is Culture Important?
What is Culture? Rachek Eschete
Iceberg Model of Culture
In those short films we heard about the Iceberg theory of culture which distinguishes Surface (Visible) Culture from Deep (Invisible) Culture. This can be roughly translated as: The cultural norms you can easily identify in a foreign country vs the cultural norms not so easily detected. Sometimes this same concept is expressed as a tree, with visible trunk, branches and leaves and invisible roots.
We consider Deep Culture at Station 4 of this Challenge so for now let’s focus on Surface Culture: those cultural expressions and influences that are easily visible and apparent – often material or tangible things like Food, Clothing, Dance, Music and Art.
Choose the way in which you want to capture your thoughts in this section – you might want to use one of the worksheets provided or draw yourself an iceberg, a tree, a spider diagram or other graphic representation (examples below).
You are now going to explore your own surface culture through considering five tangible expressions of culture – Dance, Music, Dress, Arts and Food – and capture your thoughts using your iceberg or tree (or other graphic) diagram.
You might find some useful reference points for all of the topics that follow in these sources:
- Cultural profiles, cultural Atlas
- World Culture Encyclopedia
- Country Culture Guides, Commisceo Global
Click on each of the titles below to take a look at:
Once you have explored each of the five topics above and added your notes on each to the Surface Culture section of your worksheet, move on to:
Consolidate your learning
Look at the notes you have made on the surface culture section of your diagram and consider:
- How do these compare to the traditions or stereotypes associated with your nationality in terms of dance, music, dress, art or food? What might this tell us about the cultural effects of globalisation? Do you consider this to be a negative erosion of cultural diversity or a positive fusion of cultural influences? What are the pros and cons? Note down your thoughts.
- What does your own summary of surface culture tell you about the limitations of building international understanding on the basis of nationality alone?
- Is there an important category missing from your surface culture summary? What other cultural influences might you include? Have a think about your hobbies and interests. Do you interact as part of any online social or gaming groups or fan clubs? What books and magazines do you read? Are you a member of a book club? Do you often go to the cinema or theatre? What do you go to see? Do you regularly participate in sports with a team or social group? These activities each have their own micro-culture that is part of your own personal mix of cultural influences. Add any that you feel should be included.
Creative Activity: Share a taste of your culture
One of the most compelling tangible expressions of culture comes from the food that we eat and the ways in which it is prepared and shared.
In this activity we would like you to choose once type of food that you feel is the best expression of your own culture and share the recipe, and a brief explanation of its cultural context. If you have access to a kitchen and the ingredients available, please make your dish and include a photograph with your recipe.
Sharing your recipe: