Saturday, January 20, 2007

The American way of being explicit

The American way of communication has been said to be unique to that particular nation. When I go to the States, people say hello to me on the lift, waiters state their names aloud when I sit in a restaurant. In meetings, people articulate their background with lengthy words.

In other societies, it is usually considered a bad taste to be so explicit. In Japan, people rely on an implicit understanding of the social norms and aesthetics, which are seldom mentioned. In the United Kingdom, where I did my postdoc for two years, the American way of stating everything was kind of looked down. Some people thought that it was a manifestation of a lack of wisdom.

But things are changing.

The reason why the American mannerism developed over the years, of course, is to be found in the social construction of the nation. The American society is made up of people from various backgrounds. No matter what your ancestor's nationality was, whether you are an immigrant or a native-born citizen, you are a "typical" American. With such a variety of backgrounds and cultural traits, it became necessary to state the very assumptions and paradigms that frame your actions and value systems in a explicit way. Otherwise people don't understand you.

With the advent of internet, things are changing. As more and more people start to interact within the small-world network, crossing over borders and less frequently language barriers to my regret, it is becoming necessary to state your background in a more explicit way.

In the cyberspace, the situation is much more "American" than the physical nation itself, in terms of the heterogeneity of people surfing the web. Maybe we should all start stating our names aloud and take pains in explaining everything that is tacitly assumed in the respective home society. We should, in a sense, all emulate the American way of being explicit. Otherwise we would probably miss the great revolution that is happening here and now in the cyberspace.

1 comment:

miho said...

The cyberspace revolution ! I got new glasses to understand the cyberspace, undiscovered wilderness from reading your logic. It's up to us to realize the existence. Thank you for sharing that. You are always very inspiring !! I do enjoy reading both languages very much !! Mogi san, I hope you will come to NY someday and have a lecture at Japan Society or somewhere (Art Gallery ?) like that !