Identity.

Take a step back and consider yourself, who you are, what you do and your worldview.

Until becoming a student of ELL230, I was completely unaware that I am a reflection of my parents. The analysis of intercultural communication and cultural identity has deepened my understanding of how I am a mirror of my family’s Italian culture and values.

Growing up, I never truly understood why friends were shocked when I wasn’t allowed to go to the movies on my own, they never understood why when I open my lunch box it smelt like a delicatessen, or when I answered the phone I spoke another language. I was always questioned and teased for being so different to their norm. But it wasn’t until I fully understood that these differences are rooted in the influence of one’s cultural identity, and they shape your sense of self and worldview.

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Culture is the essence of our being – culture is the social behaviour and knowledge of a society encompassed with language, religion, food, music and so on (Zimmermann, 2019). Our culture shapes us, and the way in which we understand the world around us, allowing us to become more culturally aware.

 

For this project, I will be exploring culture and identity. What it is, the influence it has on individuals and the way in which it makes us more culturally aware.

We live in a world where billions of people co-exist with each other. By embracing and accepting cultural diversity as well as your own cultural identity, you are able to influence, accept and spread a common understanding, which is extremely important during this time. Understanding culture, identity and language are integral parts in not only increasing our own cultural competence but also understanding a wider society and ourselves.

“The greatest challenge in life is to be our own person and accept that being different is a blessing and not a curse. A person who knows whom they are lives a simple life by eliminating from their orbit anything that does not align with his or her overriding purpose and values. A person must be selective with their time and energy because both elements of life are limited.”– Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls.

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This Is Who I Am.

 

giphyWe live in a richly diverse world, where it could be argued that no single community is of one particular race, religion or culture.

In 2018, the International Air Transport Association released its 62nd annual report on travel statistics for 2017 (Rosen, 2019). The report showed that a record-breaking 4.1 billion passengers flew on scheduled airline services during this year (Rosen, 2019). This was shown to be more than 280 million more than the previous year – an increase of 7.3% (Rosen, 2019).Now, these are only statistics for flights, can you imagine how many people are on the move via ship, motor vehicle, foot and so on?

The world is changing into a ‘global village’ and congruently “becoming more and more interwoven and interdependent” (Moore and Barker, 2012). Our identity is formed by our social and environmental surroundings, the culture, values, beliefs and experiences we have.

Culture can be defined as “a historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which people communicate, perpetuate and develop their knowledge about and attitudes towards life” (Jackson, 2019). Culture also encapsulates and embodies factors such as religion, history, values, social organisations and language.  Culture is undeniably present throughout every society, and in some way or another culture is what ultimately allows us to develop a sense of identity.

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Culture and identity go hand in hand, through values, beliefs, thinking patterns and learned behaviour we come to share and learn. “Identity is the definition of ones-self” (Jackson, 2019), it is the way we perceive ourselves and how others come to know us. Identity is constructed through the connection of language, social structures, gender, cultural patterns and belief.

Understanding others makes possible a better knowledge of oneself: any form of identity is complex, for individuals are defined in relation to other people – both individually and collectively – and the various groups to which they show allegiance, in a constantly shifting pattern” – UNESCO (1996) ‘Learning: The Treasure Within (Delors, 1996).

In 2013 Sorrels depicted cultural identity as “our situated sense of self that is shaped by our cultural experiences and social locations” (Jackson, 2019). While Bradford observed that “cultural identities are relational, that is, our emotional attachments to a particular group is impacted by how we believe others perceive our group” (Jackson, 2019).

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For myself, in particular, understanding my cultural identity has not only allowed me to further understand where my beliefs and values have come from, but they have also allowed me to identify with subgroups that are like-minded. Growing up, it was a common occurrence that I was left out for being a ‘wog’, this was largely based around the rules implemented by my parents at a young age. Between year 5-9, my parents would often restrict where I was and was not allowed to go, and often would accompany me on outings with my friend’s. This was a time I did not understand why I ‘was being punished’ and often thought that I was ‘overprotected’. Over time I began to understand; that my parents had intended for me to through ‘yearly milestones’, they explained that while they were growing up their parents would heavily govern their habits and choices. This was not only because they were over-protective, but also the idea that with every year of maturing you are allowed to do one thing more than the year before. This not only taught us the value of our family, but it taught us the value of time.

Parenting varies from culture to culture, and it plays an important role in moulding children’s behaviour and thinking patterns(Huang, 2018). Reflecting now, I understand that not only my safety was considered but the value of each new moment is super important to me now. It allowed me to value the process of ‘growing up’, and presented itself as a major learning curve in the way I identify myself.

My cultural identity is influenced by two different cultures, Australian and Italian. While I am an Australian born, my childhood was always heavily influenced by my grandparents. During this time I began to learn the basic language of Calabrese Italian and my ancestral heritage. Erikson explains in order to understand cultural/ethnic identity; we must understand the extent of the individual’s engagement in the “developmental process of ethnic [and cultural] identity exploration” (Phinney et al., 2001). I have always been heavily engaged with my Italian cultural history, and as a part of this I have (unintentionally) valued this more than my Australian culture. Phinney further explains that “minority youths explore the meaning of being a member of an ethnic group within a larger society” (Phinney et al., 2001).  I’ve learnt to appreciate that my values of family, religion and tradition are heavily emphasised amongst Italian tradition, rather this can be extremely different amongst many of my Australian friends.

This constant difference in my life has forced me to adapt to varying subgroups, i.e. my family, friends and the workplace. As I’ve grown up, I’ve become more and more conscious of what I say, what I do and my justification. This has been due to the constant questioning I’ve received when I’ve made an input throughout a conversation. Most recently my friends and I were talking about the value of marriage and ideally where we would like to conduct the ceremony. My response was in my family Church, not because I am overly religious, but due to its sentiment. Revisiting my grandparent’s hometown last year in Roccella Ionica, Calabria, Italy, enhanced understanding that my self-identity is an extension of my Italian heritage. I was taken back at how our family interacted with our circle and the wider community within our local town, and learn more about our family history. Amongst this little old town, the tradition was one of the central values all the locals and my family had. Speaking to generations of family and even my own extended family, couples were married in the same church, with the same ceremony. Why? Because apart of our culture we hone in on appreciating and thanking our ancestors for where we are today and commemorate those who have passed.

As I sit here contemplating my life’s decisions in utter shock that I am more of my parents than I like to admit. I wonder, am I acculturating more into my Italian culture than I am enculturation into Australian culture? I think yes, while it is completely unintentional I find myself belonging to my Italian heritage with an intermix of my Australian culture and values. Casmir (1984) defines this as “the image of the self and the culture intertwined in the individual’s total conception of reality” (Moore and Barker, 2012). Kim (2008) explains that individuals who identify themselves between two cultures can achieve an intercultural identity described as “an open-ended, adaptive, and transformative self-other orientation” (Moore and Barker, 2012).

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Approaching the last days of my university life I begin to consider what lies ahead for me, what obstacles are awaiting me, and what lengths I am capable of reaching. One element that resonated with me in particular during my cultural identity discovery was the reoccurring elements of cultural competence. Cultural competence centres itself on the will and actions of individuals that help to build a better understanding and relationship of each other (Make it our business, 2019). Finding a common ground to respect and be open to different cultural perspectives and equality is an integral trait to hold in a vastly diverse multicultural world. Growing up for me, I was always taught the values of others and to give each individual the same respect that I would expect. I love meeting and interacting with people of different cultures, and being immersed in multiculturalism I find myself thriving on diversity and a single commonality that unites us all, may it be work, experience etc. Having your own cultural awareness, can keep us from projecting our values onto others. Therefore, preparing yourself, especially in cases where you will be interacting with others from different cultures, you must be culturally aware of how you act.

A prime example of this is verbal communication. As a freelancer, you come into contact with a wide range of different people from different cultures, and common conversation may not always occur in the ‘normal fashion’. During a conversation with a European woman, I was conscious of my language and articulation, greetings, and the way I held myself. Once our meeting was over, I received an email of gratitude, explaining that she had not met a young university student who was able to hold a ‘mature and diverse’ conversation. She told me that she valued our time together and that she was looking forward to progressing in our business venture.

But there was little me sitting in complete and utter shock trying to remember what I did I did to impress this woman…. I still can’t find you an answer, other than I was myself and I was culturally conscious of our interaction and my own personality.

I am an Australian born Italian, with a rather large mouth that can literally talk your ear off for hours. I hold central values of my family, friends, beliefs and work ethic with no other intention than to please others before myself. I’ve been taught to be socially aware of the world around me and how others perceive me. But how? My cultural identity and upbringing.

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Lastly, cultural identity is truly a rabbit hole. Upon discovery, acknowledgement and social interactions, your cultural identity influences your every word and choice. I believe that acknowledging this, it will not only give you a better understanding of yourself but it will allow you to grow as an individual and become more culturally aware in the world that we live in.

 

Bibliography:

Delors, J. (1996). Learning: The Treasure within. Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the twenty-first-Century, Paris UNESCO 1996. Internationales Jahrbuch der Erwachsenenbildung, 24(1).

Huang, C. (2018). How culture influences children’s development. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/how-culture-influences-childrens-development-99791 [Accessed 17 Jun. 2019].

Jackson, J. (2019). INTRODUCING LANGUAGE AND INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION. 1st ed. [S.l.]: ROUTLEDGE.

Make it our business. (2019). What does it mean to be culturally competent? | Make It Our Business. [online] Available at: http://makeitourbusiness.ca/blog/what-does-it-mean-be-culturally-competent [Accessed 17 Jun. 2019].

Moore, A. and Barker, G. (2012). Confused or multicultural: Third culture individuals’ cultural identity. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 36(4), pp.553-562.

Oldster, K. (2019). Dead Toad Scrolls Quotes. [online] Goodreads. Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/51850408-dead-toad-scrolls [Accessed 17 Jun. 2019].

Phinney, J., Romero, I., Nava, M. and Huang, D. (2001). The Role of Language, Parents, and Peers in Ethnic Identity Among Adolescents in Immigrant Families. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 30(2), pp.135-153.

Rosen, E. (2019). Over 4 Billion Passengers Flew In 2017 Setting New Travel Record. [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericrosen/2018/09/08/over-4-billion-passengers-flew-in-2017-setting-new-travel-record/#2ddd5daf255b [Accessed 17 Jun. 2019].

Zimmermann, K. (2019). What Is Culture?. [online] Live Science. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/21478-what-is-culture-definition-of-culture.html [Accessed 17 Jun. 2019].

Intervening through Hairdressing

For this assessment, I have chosen a topic that is socially relevant and reflective of what we have learnt during the semester. It is focused on developing a case study for corporate social responsibility and how this can be a powerful tool in combatting a global issue that my audience is likely aware of, but very removed from. In this case, hunger and malnutrition. It is estimated that around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years are linked to under nutrition; this is an issue that continues to be prevalent throughout society (WHO, 2018).

My intention was to create an evocative and memorable piece of content that juxtaposed an issue that is tragic and saddening, with hope and empowerment. Colour with Care is an initiative created in 2017 by La Biosthetique Australia CEO Robert Aubin and Karen Aubin. The initiative advocates for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), to help support the not-for-profit and provide much needed food and aid to over 70 countries.

Due to the nature of the initiative, I chose to make a mini clip, which highlights the cause and effect of the intervention. Colour with Care has used its initiative as a concept global media to intervene for hunger and malnutrition through fundraising, social media and hairdressing. Intervening through hairdressing, I have found is a unique strategy, especially when examining campaigns that are advocating for similar issues. The hairdressing industry is often underestimated; it provides a platform for interventionists to connect with their audience on personal level through beauty and self-worth (Ellery, 2014).

In order to convey that hairdressing not only benefits the client, it extends to an international level, I wanted to showcase the issue and strategy in order to help and donate towards an every-growing matter; I achieved this through a specific selection of footage, titles, effects and music.

“The ability to perceive and understand emotional experiences is critical” (Satpute et al., 2016), in order to effectively convey the tragedy and direness of this issue, I utilised the black and white effect. By doing so, I wanted to remove the audience from their surroundings to take a moment to empathise with an issue we have never lived or have been exposed to during our day-to-day lives. This is further complimented by the soft and sombre backing track, I felt it engages and causes the audience to provoke emotional engagement and contemplate how this issue evolves and can be further dealt with and to understand how the functions of the intervention work.

To further engage and convey how La Biosthetique are intervening through hairdressing, I used colour and coloured subtitles as juxtaposition to relate to the western culture and desire of having your hair done as a beauty necessity and ritual (Ellery, 2014). Coloured subtitles were used to make the facts stand out, and show why Colour with Care is intervening. Furthermore, colour footage towards the end not only showcases a fresh colour for the client, rather it also showcases that as a result of this ‘every day’ activity, it having a broader impact on a global issue. Showing the process of colour allows the audience to recognise the extensive reach on a western audience who not only have the desire to feel good; rather it provokes gratitude and empathy. Through the gradual introduction and inclusion of colour, I intended to unveil how this process provides a resolution.

References:

A Ping-Pong Affair

By understanding the presence and role of sport in different cultures, we learn why nations hold sport close to their hearts and why they are seen as a part of their national identity.

To understand culture, and our own cultural experiences, we often turn to Asia. The Earth’s largest and most populous continent, enriched with diversity and culture. Digital Asia open’s the doors to a variety of concepts, ideas and functions throughout the Asian culture. Research has shown that apart of this culture, sport is influencing factor that not only show cases athletic ability, but also opens the doors to understand diplomacy and history. For this digital artefact, I have chosen to explore China’s reigning sport, Ping-Pong also known as Table Tennis.

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Culture throughout the ages has progressed, it is “always evolving, dynamic and hybrid” and “cannot be understood as static, eternally given and essentialist”. In order to understand culture, and we must understand its foundations past and present. Table tennis is apart of Chinese history; we acknowledge its integration into society through communism and its role as national identity. Understanding these components allow us to broaden our intercultural understandings, due to my own cultural background and worldview, my research on Asian sporting culture and more broadly has been very much characterised by new understandings.

By applying autoethnography as a research methodology, we are enabled to have an authentic and unaltered experience. Ellis describes autoethnography as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)”. Autoethnography combines the characteristics of autobiography and ethnography, which allows you to selectively write about your past, thoughts and perceived moments that you feel influence your understanding of your area of study.

Through my existing topline understanding of table tennis, I found a likeness to tennis. This is significant as tennis is a sport I grew up playing and was heavily involved in – and this connection allowed me to find a commonality with my research topic. Ellis explains, “[autoethnographers] study a culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs, and shared experiences.” Self-narrative “can take us to the depths of personal feeling, leading us to be emotionally moved and sympathetically understanding.” Exploring the culture and training of table tennis, I have been able to empathise with the athletes and take an appreciate to the consistency and focus of the game.

The following digital artefact will explore the game of table tennis in China and its cultural value, and how my understanding has been bolstered and impacted by my personal experiences and culture.

Paddle Back in Time

Table tennis made its first impression as a “parlour game” in that it was open to anyone who was able to access a table, paddle and ball. The name “Ping-Pong” was first coined by the English firm J. Jaques and Son at the end of the 1800s, and later trademarked in the US by gaming company the Parker Brothers.

Ping-Pong has long been a revered game in China, and at the beginning of its emergence it was one of the only sports nationwide. Today, China sits at the top of the leaderboard across nearly every table tennis category and since the sport was introduced into the Summer Games in 1988, Chinese players have won 28 out of the 32 gold medals. It is estimated that China’s win percentage is 57.7 of the players, and of this they have managed to achieve 87.5% of gold medals.

 

But why is China so good at the game?

 

Table tennis took China by storm in 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was in power. At the time, officials felt the sport was able to connect the People’s Republic to the rest of the world. CCP’s leaders such as Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai were playing the sport and, as a result, it quickly became the national sport of the country.

 

In 1959, the country made its first major breakthrough in the sport; Rong Gutuan won the men’s singles title in the World Table Tennis Championships in Germany. Gutuan’s win saw national pride skyrocket, and propaganda took the victory to another level as it occurred during the 10thanniversary of the People’s Republic founding.

Since then, table tennis has always been China’s most prominent sport. It not only was used as a political tool, it also suited the Chinese lifestyle, an easily stored and does not take up a large amount of room. Today speaking to the younger society, it seems that the sport itself is not as popular as it once was. This is as a result of the gradual western influence that has slowly crept up on the culture of sport and has directed its attention to many more sport.

The Experience.

While some may consider table tennis a “lesser sport”, it is not for the faint-hearted. It is a sport of focus, skill, endurance and consistency.

On September 1st2018, the world saw another year of the Asian Games but in particular the Men’s Table Tennis Finals. Perfect timing for this digital artefact, right? The final’s was a showcase of China’s best male table tennis talent, Fan Zhendong vs. Jeoung Youngsik.

While the match is commentated in an Asian language, the athleticism on display transcends this barrier:

My initial attitude approaching this viewing was anti-climatic to say the least. Having spoken to friends who have watched and played table tennis their reactions were repetitive “it’s a fun game to play, but its like watching tennis… lengthy and boring until the end”.

Prior to watching I wanted to understand the skill behind the table tennis player, and I was able to narrow down the four core professional skills:

Understanding only some of the skill this sport requires, I still struggled to understand how it is set apart from other sports in the world. My readings prompted me to reflect on my past experiences training and playing tennis. Reaction, spin, speed, surface and self-management are also at the core of tennis as a whole.

Understanding the skill of the sport was an epiphany in my understanding of the game, and in turn leads me to develop my appreciation for Ping-Pong.

Here are the highlights of the final match:

My newfound understanding of the game’s skill, rules and regulations enhanced by viewing of this match and the game more broadly.

giphy.gifIt was interesting to recognise the similarities between table tennis and tennis. As a former tennis player, I was able to reflect on the likeness of training patterns across both sports – and this further allowed me to understand and appreciate the technicality of table tennis through my own experience. It extends past western perceptions of Ping-Pong as a game of leisure, and associations with Australian drinking culture and the game of ‘beer-pong’.

This triggered yet another epiphany – much of western sport (particularly in Australia) is deeply entwined with our drinking culture. Most recently, with the end of the NRL season, many teams have been called out for their excessive drinking behaviours. To draw a comparative analysis, I researched instances where Chinese table tennis athletes have been a part of alcohol-related events – and I was unable to find any article that explicitly recounts an occasion. This is interesting to note, as I found it reflective and aligned with Asian culture.

China is known to be a heavily governed and reserved society, where discipline and order are key values. The history of table tennis reflects this as it was introduced during China’s peak of Communism, with the governance of Mao during the People’s Republic of China. Since then, the sport has continued to be apart of the countries identity.

I have found it incredibly interesting to analyse how politics has influenced and the shaped the sport. Not only has table tennis been used as a diplomacy tool, it is a sport that is reflective of a disciplined society. I found that watching the table tennis players’ strokes during a rally, you can clearly see how carefully selected and executed each shot is. The ball is on return within five seconds of the ball contacting their opponent’s paddle.

I have a strong understanding of the endurance and stamina it takes to hold a rally on a tennis court and the continuous back and forth these athletes engage in despite the limited boundaries of the table has left me in awe. I have never understood the accuracy table tennis possesses but it is very stark through the Asia Games men’s finals, where we see the Ping-Pong ball brushing the very edge of the table. However, with applied spin and strength of the opponent, this allows them to contact the ball at a certain height in order to keep the ball in play.

This clip is just one of the many examples I found when researching Ping-Pong training methods. It is so interesting to see how disciplined training rituals are, commonly completed in large groups with a mentor and trainer consistently calling out shadow drills.

I took a minute to reflect and try to imagine the intensity of these training sessions. Could I have done this when I was playing tennis? Yes and no, I think for many Australian sports and in particular tennis, we don’t only focus on the common strokes, rather we take an all round focus on fitness and diet. Much of my training was broken into days, some days on court, some day’s footwork training and others general fitness. By doing this I was able to train majority of my body and it gave me an element of diversity and ‘fun’.

As an observer of table tennis training, I feel as if I would particularly struggle when consistently training one type of stroke and also being indoors. However, this comes with the type of sport. It’s interesting to notice how training methods dramatically shift when it comes to sport, and what type of physical endurance and focus that they require.

Diplomacy

Sport and politics often collide, and leaders have increased their efforts to harness the role of sport in furthering their national interests. But sporting competitions have been taking place between nation states in conflict for millennia.”

Commonly throughout history we have seen sport used as a diplomatic tool to bring countries together. Probably the most prolific example of this is the Olympic Games, where a ‘truce’ was put into play to ensure that all participants, spectators and officials were able to travel and participate safely. Over the years, we have seen sports diplomacy win in many cases, but also lose.

After researching the history of table tennis, it was interesting to find that this particular sport was used in the means of diplomacy between two countries, China and the United States of America.

The clip below provides a brief overview.

 

Another clip for further information!

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/magazine-25836922/how-ping-pong-diplomacy-brought-nixon-to-china

China felt that by opening and inviting the US, they would break the hostility between neighbours and initiate a possible shift in alliances.

Nixon, the real winner “will be the friendship between the people of the United States and the people of the People’s Republic of China”. 

Since then, we can see that there has been a regular US presidential trip to China. It is interesting to evaluate, how Sports and in particular table tennis has the ability to unite and create a common ground for unfamiliar and at times feuding countries.