Just coming back from Edinburgh Cultural Festival I dived quickly into the academic discussion about the notion of culture. The Edinburgh festivals is a kaleidoscope demonstration of how people express themselves, the world by constructing stories in artistic forms. The notion of culture discussed in academic settings covers a wider range of situation: how people address uncertainty, power hierarchies, opposite gender etc. An art form of culture is an intense, staged version of daily culture.
I many times think of our world as a garden or a safari or a juggle, an ecosystem in which all kinds of live beings play a certain role. Just as we are amazed by the diversification our nature offers, we shall embrace how each genre of plant or animal plays a unique role in the world naturally. In the desert plants with thin leaves survive by reducing water evaporation. In the tropical regions, plants with opposite features thrive. The soil, the weather, the microenvironment and the food chain structure shaped the habit and the look of a particular plant or an animal.
In terms of human culture, things are even more complicated because we can change our environment. Our local environment shapes us (our local culture) but we shape our environment too. By environment, I not only meant natural environment also include the concept of institution, legal structure, etc. In certain cultures, rules matter more than in others. For example, right now I am preparing my driving theory test in UK. Part of it is to memorize hundreds of traffic signals. There are more than 300 articles to cover every situation for every type of drivers. It was not the case when I was preparing my driving theory test in Hong Kong. When I was negotiation contract with Chinese universities for my work, they usually complain how long UK contracts are compared to US contract. This is a reflection of culture. It is a result of intertwining of history, institution, constitution, geography and even weather. Accumulation of culture goes back long way and it is rooted much deeper than it looks.
In the wildness, it is possible to reach equilibrium over time. Without dramatic external change, number of each species stabilizes. However our civilization has a less peaceful record. We had wars and battles between nations and continents, many times due to clashes of religions and identities. As the concept of religion and identity forms our culture, I can therefore say, we had wars and batters, many times resulting from our incapability in resolving cultural differences.
Luckily we are increasingly aware of culture, thanks to modern technology and resulting cross cultural communication. The ultimate purpose of knowing is not to know every possible stereotype. The significance of the study for me is to be aware someone’s way of thinking and being can be completely different from mine, or even from my imagination. And that demonstration of behavior is determined by value. That value is deeply rooted under the influence of history, social, anthropology factors. A certain value combined with certain behavior created the notion of certain ‘stereotype’. That stereotype can be even more deeply entrenched in our minds.
Zootopia is a movie about ecosystem. ‘From the largest elephant to the smallest shrew, the city of Zootopia is a mammal metropolis where various animals live and thrive. When Judy Hopps becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she quickly learns how tough it is to enforce the law. Determined to prove herself, Judy jumps at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case. ‘
We want to create a zootopia for an online learning community. It takes institution and many brave individuals like Judy Hopps.
Appendix: photo source – http://visitzootopia.asia/img/visitzootopia-fb-share.jpg