Culture and Society

  • Culture is way of life shared by group of individuals – the beliefs and values that bind a society together. Very diverse, can include artwork, language, and literature.
  • Society is the way people organize themselves – bunch of people who live together in a specific geographic area, and interact more with each other than outsiders. Share a common culture over time.
    • Culture = rules that guide way people live, and society = structure that provides organization for people.
  • Society includes institutions, ex. family, education, politics, which all meet basic human needs. The hardware on a phone.
  • Culture provides guidelines for living, ex. software or apps on a phone, constantly being updated. What makes society run.

Culture talks about rules and instructions within a society that teach them how to live.

  • Refers to ideas and things passed from generation to the next – language, customs, etc. Varies as we travel around the globe.
    • Chinese and Spanish spoken all around the world; Many like meat and vegetables, while others eat tofu and grasshoppers; Ways of greeting differ
  • 4 main points:
    • All people share culture with others in their society, provides rules and expectations for carrying out daily rituals and interactions.
    • Culture is adaptive – it evolves over time.
    • Culture builds on itself – creation of culture is ongoing and cumulative, and societies build on existing cultures to adapt to new challenges and opportunities.
    • Culture is transmitted – from one generation to the next. We teach a way of life to the next generation. Humans are only mammals with culture to adapt to environment.
  • Subculture vs. Counterculture
  • A subculture is culture of a meso-level sub-community that distinguishes itself from the larger dominant culture of society.
    • Smaller than a nation but unlike a microculture, it is large enough to support people throughout their entire lifespan.
    • Meso-level = before micro and macro level. Medium sized groups.
    • Subcommunity = smaller community in larger one.
    • It’s different in some way, but still share some things with larger society.
  • A microculture can’t support people throughout their lifespan, refers to groups/organizations only affecting limited period of one’s life.
    • Girl scouts, college sororities, boarding school.
  • Subcultures include ethnic groups like Mexicans or orthodox Jews, or groups like the elite upper class. Can cause tension with dominant
  • When laws of dominant society are violated, a counterculture results. Values differ greatly from larger society.
    • Mormons believe in polygamy. Polygamy = more than one spouse, polygyny = more than one wife
    • Amish reject mainstream ideas and have their own ideas, reject technology and consumerism.
  • Jim Goes to College Subculture
  • Within a nation many smaller groups – ethnic, regional, tribal subcultures made of people who identify closely with each other. So subculture is smaller community that distinguishes itself from larger society.
    • Different cities states in US may have their own unique subcultures.
      • Jim, grew up in Florida his whole life, but got into university in Washington DC. Notices a lot of differences between the two. Ex. Has to parallel park, and has to pay for parking. Driving in DC not same as in Florida, much more traffic.
  • Culture Lag and Culture Shock
  • Culture lag is the fact culture takes time to catch up with technological innovations, resulting in social problems.
    • Common in societies because material culture changes rapidly, while non-material culture resists change.
    • Material culture refers to physical and technological aspects of our daily lives, like food and houses
    • Non-material culture doesn’t include physical objects, like ideas/beliefs/values, which resist change.
      • Examples: when cars first invented no laws to govern driving (no speed limits, lanes, etc). Very dangerous but laws soon written to fix problem. Or invention of computers and emails.
    • Culture Shock – feelings of disorientation, uncertainty, and even fear when they encounter unfamiliar culture Ex. Moving countries or travels to another type of life (urban to rural).
      • In foreign places, business conducted differently, and food completely different.
      • As a result of culture shock may feel homesick, lonely, etc.
      • Sometimes see things frowned upon in own culture
  • Diffusion
  • Diffusion is the spread of an invention or discovery from one place to another. Even technology and software have made a difference in how people connect with others across the globe. Can occur in many ways.
    • Capitalism, democracy and religious beliefs
    • Exploration, military conquest, missionary work, mass media, tourism, internet.
    • Food in America seen all around the world – McDonalds in Asia. Spanish is one of fastest growing languages. Or the ALS ice bucket challenge.
  • Mass media = dissemination of information, and how it’s transmitted within a culture. Includes print media and digital media. How it’s consumed changes across cultures in each group. Can look at role it plays through society through different sociological perspectives.
    • According to the functionalist perspective, its main role is to provide entertainment. Also says it can act as an agent of socialization (ex. Collective experience of watching Olympics on TV, and community building – entire internet communities) and act as an enforcer of social norms.
      • Also tells us what society expects of us through rewards and punishment, ex. Seeing criminals. But can also glorify behaviours that are wrong in society, like intense physical violence.
      • Also functions as a promoter of consumer culture. At the turn of century average US child saw 20000 commercials a year on TV. Only increased from there, and not clear what impact this may have on next generation.
    • The conflict perspective focuses on how the media portrays and reflects and exacerbate divisions that exist in society, ex. Race/social class.
      • Uses term gatekeeping to describe the process by which a small number of people and corporations control what information is presented on the media, and how they move through a series of gates before they reach the public. In some countries this is decided by the government, in others decided by large media corporations.
      • Gatekeeping has more effect on some media than others, ex. Lots of control on big movies, but little overhead control on what’s posted online.
      • Also describes how mass media reflects the dominant ideology. Often limits other views. People who make the choice – the gatekeepers are predominantly white, male, and wealthy.
      • Portrayal of minorities can be stereotyped. And attempts to fix this can wrongly result in tokenism.
        • Tokenism –
      • Feminist Theories is similar to conflict theory, in that mass media misrepresents society towards the dominant ideology. Specifically, message about men and women are represented in the media. Depictions of men and women often stereotyped, emphasizing traditional sex roles.
  • Interactionist perspective looks at mass media on micro-level to see how it shapes day to day behavior.
    • How mass media blurs line between solidary and group activities
      • watching a movie.
    • And how we connect with others using media changes over time (email instead of phone, or online dating).
  • Evolution and Human Culture
  • Culture is the customs, knowledge, and behaviours learned and socially transmitted. Includes values and objects meaningful to a group of people. Culture also has a biological
    • Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution – both physical traits and behaviours can be selected for if they contribute to success of the species.
      • For behaviours, all cultures of ways of dealing with illness/medicine/healing. Or wedding/funeral ceremonies. Language. Indicates they were selected for as human species evolved.
    • Evolution can shape culture, but can also think of how culture can shape human evolution.
      • Hunter-gatherer society vs. farming society, people moved less, and populations grew. Because of this people were more exposed to outbreaks of disease. Since only those that survived weren’t killed off, these societies have shaped our immune systems.
      • Or lactose intolerance, first year of life most humans get nutrition from milk, but switched after children are weaned. But Northern Europeans which reared cattle, don’t have this effect – their lactase gene doesn’t turn off. So those able to digest milk more likely to survive.
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