Cross-Culture Digital Literacy

Thatcher stated that technical communicators should possess 4 competencies when dealing with intercultural digital literacy:

  • Understand the rhetorical characteristics of the digital medium itself
  • Match those characteristics to the demand, constraints, purposes, and audience expectations of the situation in their culture
  • Assess how the situation varies in the target culture
  • Adapt their communication strategies to the different rhetorical expectations for the target culture
These are great guidelines when it comes to establishing a seamless transaction between two cultures. While I haven’t worked on a cross-cultural project, I can only imagine that executing the guidelines is difficult on a completely different level. I would think that you wouldn’t realize all the challenges of creating a common digital literacy between two cultures until you’re eyeball deep in the process. Yes, doing your homework could help create a better experience for both cultures on the front end, but I think it would be difficult to fully understand all the issues a particular culture encounters if you’re not a part of the culture itself. Does anyone have experience working with two different cultures? What were some of the challenges you faced?
I thought Thatcher’s case study with the EPA project was helpful in understanding some of the obstacles technical communicators face when working on cross-cultural projects. I can understand why they didn’t get the anticipated level of participation from their Mexican counter-parts (Especially the closing statement in the translated email that reads “I am at your orders.”).

Posted on November 13, 2011, in Literacy, Workplace and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hey Stephanie – I agree with your statement “I think it would be difficult to fully understand all the issues a particular culture encounters if you’re not a part of the culture itself.” Although I haven’t dealt with it in a work environment, I certainly dealt with some weird cultural things when I did my study abroad in Scotland. In one instance, a large group of we Americans went into a bar/restaurant. We started to push some tables together so we could all sit by each other. The bartenders came around and started shouting at us asking us what the hell we thought we were doing. Pushing together tables without asking is NOT acceptable behavior. I don’t think that – even had we done our homework – we’d have known that one.

    I thought this reading was fascinating, especially when it came to the Individual/Collective, Universal/Particular, Specific/Diffuse situations. It makes a lot of behaviors of these groups make more sense. It also made me think about these places in regards to our country imposing our framework of democracy on their cultures. It’s absolutely ridiculous for us to think that would even work at all. The cultures are so diametrically opposed to ours that I don’t know that our paradigm would work overlaid onto their culture. Mindblowing, really.

    • Great example, Heidi! I studied abroad in England and I feel like they almost over-prepared us for the English culture, when really, I ran into very few hugely obvious differences. Or then again, maybe there was, and the locals just shrugged it off as us being Americans. ha!

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. I like that you’ve called out these 4 competencies. Great way to narrow the reading down to what really matters to you and think about how you’d have to consider other audiences!

    Heidi’s example here is great too–you can never anticipate everything, but you can try.

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