CULTURE AND SYMBOLS
Using the Six Dimensions
by Phil Bartle, PhD
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Culture is everything symbolic we learn
That learning starts at birth (some say earlier) and continues until death. It is a process of becoming human.
All culture is learned but not everything learned is cultural.
At age two, when we touch a hot element on the stove, we learn that it hurts. Not culture. Only when Mommy says "hot" do we attach a word, a symbol, to the experience.
A symbol is something that stands for something else.
We learn things by attaching meanings to the symbols we use to communicate. That applies to all six dimensions.
Language is a complex system of symbols.
Symbols have no meaning unless humans attach meanings to them, and communicate those meaning to each other.
Information that is transmitted from human to human by genes is not cultural.
Perhaps, when they manifest as behaviour, they are instinctual, whatever that means.
Such information is biological.
Some engineers (especially engineering students) might object to tools being called cultural, but they are.
They belong to the technological dimension, and their design, use and modification all require the use of symbols.
Culture, and the transmission of culture by symbols, is not limited to our non sociological definition of culture, eg ballet, opera and symphonies (high culture) or beer and hockey (pop culture).
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