Friday, January 28, 2011

Cultural Literacy

The materials for this week's section concerning cultural literacy were mostly interesting. A lot of the information was not news to me, since anthropology 201 emphasizes practically every cultural aspect there is to know, as well as the importance of having a culturally relativist attitude rather than an ethnocentric one. Knowing all of this, I believe that Hirsch's take on American cultural literacy is too binding, and cannot possibly encompass all aspects of American society. Our melting pot of a country has a plethora of subcultures that he probably could not understand himself, being the ethnocentric white-collar scholar that he is.

That being said, the more generalized take on cultural literacy, with the expanded view of incorporating multimedia forms of communication, is a better way to try and understand a culture. In my own culture, especially my generation, references are drawn from many aspects of society, including movies, internet webcomics, popular blogs, famous works of architecture (this may be limited to architecture majors, I don't know), or perhaps literature from school or personal enjoyment. Learning to be culturally literate in my host country of Spain will be a challenge for the next four months. Not only because it is apparently the opposite of America (according to Geert Hofstede's "Cultural Dimensions"), but because the city of Barcelona may as well be its own independent country.

Hofstede's cultural dimensions showed great differences between America's and Spain's Individualism and Uncertainty Avoidance Index. It comes as no surprise to myself that America has the highest value for individualism than any other country in the world. From birth, we are raised to be able to take care of ourselves one day, without being dependent upon anybody else. What is more interesting to me is that Spain has a very high Uncertainty Avoidance Index, meaning that they are more likely to be "emotional, and motivated by inner nervous energy," and will most likely have strict laws and rules. In a religious sense, the majority will believe in an absolute truth--in Spain's case, that must be Catholicism. Over 76% of the country claims to be Catholic, while only 2.1% claim to be another faith, and the rest of the population do not claim a religion or are atheist. An overwhelming majority of the population are followers of a single religion.

The video lectures concerning cultural literacy repeatedly emphasized five points defining culture: Nomos, ethnos, techne, mythos, and archon. Barcelona's defiant culture is most easily recognized through ethnos and archon.

Barcelona seems rather separated from its own country. The city has it's own ethnos, identity, which sets it apart from the rest of Spain. The city prefers to identify itself with the community of Catalonia. They speak their own language, Catalan, and in some cases citizens refuse to speak Spanish at all. I have experienced this personally, which makes it difficult to communicate when I do not know a lick of Catalan. Rumor has it that the people of Barcelona did not celebrate when Spain won the 2010 World Cup because FC Barcelona was not the winning team; however, this is just a rumor. Barcelona's identification with Catalonia sets back 2000 years ago. There is a lot of history there to explore in order to have a better understanding of the current culture.

The cultural element archon is explosive when it comes to sports. Fútbol is especially important in Catalan society. The display of team spirit (for FC Barcelona, at least) is intoxicating beginning from the time you enter the metro, walk to the stadium, experience the game, and finally, somehow, make it back home through the overwhelming crowd. The display of FC Barcelona's colors (red, yellow, and blue), is seen everywhere--whether it is in clothing, flags, or souvenirs. There are competing theories about the history of the team colors, all of them harkens back to different influential people's association with another sporting team. There are chants and gestures showered throughout the game, and it is really difficult to not get excited, even if its the first time you've ever watched fútbol...

As the semester progresses, I will be more attentive to the nomos, techne, and mythos of Barcelona. All of these factors will help me become more "literate" in this culture, and help me appreciate the defiance this city has against the rest of Spain.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Image Posting and Revising

As part of our class assigment, we are required to post an image at it's original scale:

And then we were told to scale it down:

This image is an example of commemoration of Barcelona's industrial history. Rather than completely demolishing an entire unused industrial block, they will leave the chimneys of warehouses and the like as a remembrance of the city's past.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Online Communities

The internet and the rise of online communications media has effectively revolutionized the way in which people interact on all scales, whether its within a school, town, state, country, or international. On a personal level, I know that online communities dictate how I contact or keep in touch with teachers, my parents, and friends from the past and present.

For example, Blackboard is a way to contact my teachers, and a way for teachers to share documents and information with me. There are many tools that we are able to use to have discussions and ask questions with the larger class, as well. My studio professor from last semester was often unavailable to drive to Clemson, so we used "virtual crits" (usually done through Skype) instead. We would prepare electronic presentations and discuss our projects virtually. It was efficient and a still-beneficial process for the class.

To keep in touch with friends and family, facebook and blogger have been essential. These two communities allow me to have conversations, share photos, and upload videos with nearly anyone I want. These two websites are extremely public, however, so Skype is a nice alternative to communicate in a more private sense. It allows all of the options concerning file sharing and conversation, as well. It has already been a convenient way to speak with my parents this first week in Spain--for free.

Without the readily available sources for online communication, it would be much more difficult and inconvenient to keep tabs on those who are important to me--even more so to complete an online course such as this. While the drawbacks of some communities such as Facebook include the increasing lack of privacy, the benefits of these media allow a plethora of options that were formerly not available.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Nice to meet you, Clammers.

As a collective whole, we are entering new territories past political boundaries, over oceans, and becoming immersed in vastly different cultures. I can hardly wait to share this experience with others, and the "Clam" community seems to be a perfect outlet for expressing such.

After reading the course materials and watching the introduction videos, I feel prepared to begin documenting and engaging in the culture that I will be living in for the next four months. It will be an interesting challenge to use digital media in ways that I am not formerly used to. As an architecture student, using programs such as photoshop will come easily to me...However, cinema is a completely different can of worms. Hopefully, with the upcoming projects I will be able to strengthen my skills, and perhaps find a new passion? Maybe I'm the next James Cameron, who knows...

Back to reality: Here in Barcelona, we've already started our second week of classes and I've learned a lot about the Catalonian culture. It's intimidating to leave our home country and try to understand the stories and practices of another. However, it will be a great adventure and I cannot wait to share it with the rest of you. Nice to meet you, Clammers. I am Liz :)