9 December 2008
Fog shrouded my arrival in Luxembourg, persisting through the first day. The second morning dawned grey but sparkling.
What a treat to listen through headphones to an interpretation into English of Professor Joanna Nowicki‘s talk on intercultural communication, or – as she prefers to label it – intercultural mediation. Her critique of ‘the American way [of teaching about] intercultural communication” was quite sharp: it “becomes one dimensional very fast.” She generalized about management programs that simply direct their students: “with people of this nationality, do that, with people of that nationality, do this.” I am not convinced that my friends in the School of Management at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst are receiving so stark a reduction, but I am familiar with trends in my department (Communication) that could lend themselves to such simplistic categorizations. No doubt Professor Nowicki’s critique applies in general, if not to every case. She also describes “the American way” as “very pragmatic,” explaining that, for Americans, the results of research must be useful.
Research and the real world
Personally, I am inclined to agree with the goal of research needing to have practical use: theory alone is dancing in air. Beautiful, yes. And exclusive. Again, however, it is unclear to me how generally this categorization applies to all American research, as there is only one official pragmatist in the UMass Communication Department and the critical emphasis leans strongly toward the theoretical. Application to the real (not abstract) world receives rather short shrift. Perhaps I am a bit more European in style, as I conceptualize theory and practice as blended in actual experience. Where Professor Nowicki did nail me in my American-ness was with her characterization of American researchers of intercultural communication moving quickly to “giving advice.”