The Benefits and Challenges of New Media for Intercultural Conflict

The Benefits and Challenges of New Media for Intercultural Conflict

Amy Janan Johnson, Sun Kyong Lee, Ioana A. Cionea, Zachary B. Massey
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3784-7.ch007
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This chapter examines current research on intercultural interactions over new media with a particular emphasis on those studies involving conflict. Two main points are emphasized: 1) new media have several characteristics that differentiate them from traditional forms of media and shape intercultural conflict, providing benefits but also creating challenges not encountered before; and 2) traditional theoretical explanations of the relationship between media and conflict are inadequate for explaining the role that individual and group characteristics play in intercultural conflict in the digital age. Certain theories are discussed in relation to the second point. Overall, the chapter proposes questions that could advance research in this emerging area.
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Before delving into further discussion, however, it is useful to define some key terms. First, intercultural communication refers to communicative exchanges between members of different cultural groups. Culture is defined as an abstract, socially derived system of shared beliefs, values, and behaviors that a group of people who speak the same language and usually inhabit the same territory have devised (Kluckhohn & Kelly, 1945; Triandis, 1995). The authors use the term culture broadly, to include national cultures, ethnic groups, and any other cultural groups. Intercultural contexts are those situations that involve culturally different individuals or groups that come into contact, physically or digitally. Intercultural contexts also capture situations in which culture is a key consideration that shapes the interaction between individuals or groups. With respect to conflict, Hocker and Wilmot (1978) define conflict as, “an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals” (p. 9). Finally, Shuter (2012) speaks of information communication technologies when discussing new media and provides the following examples: social media, text messaging, Skype, blogs, virtual worlds, and multiplayer online games. Thus, the examination of intercultural conflict and new media involves discussions about the incompatibilities or struggles of culturally distinct groups or individuals that are undertaken through or facilitated by these new forms of communication technology.

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