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Culture, Theory and Critique is a refereed, interdisciplinary journal for the transformation and development of critical theories in the

humanities and social sciences. It aims to critique and reconstruct theories by interfacing them with one another and by relocating them in new sites and conjunctures. Culture, Theory and Critique's approach to theoretical refinement and innovation is one of interaction and hybridisation via recontextualisation and transculturation. The reconceptualisation of critical theories is achieved by:
y y y y

assessing how well theories emerging from particular spatial, cultural, geographical and historical contexts travel and translate into new conjunctures. confronting theories with their limitations or aporias through immanent critique. applying theories to cultural, literary, social and political phenomena in order to test them against their respective fields of concern and to generate critical feedback. interfacing theories from different intellectual, disciplinary and institutional settings.

Given its interdisciplinary character, Culture, Theory and Critique will appeal to anyone working at the interface between disciplines such as gender studies, cultural studies, critical geography, historiography, literary theory and criticism, film studies, philosophy, postcolonialism, social and political theory and visual culture. Culture, Theory and Critique is an intercultural journal whose success depends on contributions from a variety of sources, so that debate between different perspectives can be stimulated. One of the aims of the journal is to break down theoretical hierarchies and latent intellectual hegemonies, which can be achieved only if voices from places other than Anglophone centres are heard. Every endeavour will be made for each issue of the journal to incorporate perspectives from diverse cultural, intellectual and geographical contexts. See the Instructions for Authors for further details.
http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/RCTC

cultural theory
A Dictionary of Sociology | 1998 | GORDON MARSHALL | 700+ words | Copyright

cultural theory This term has been applied to diverse attempts to conceptualize and understand the dynamics of culture. Historically these have involved arguments about the relationship between culture and nature, culture and society (including material social processes), the split between high and low culture, and the interplay between cultural tradition and cultural difference and diversity. Cultural theory has also been marked by an engagement with concepts which have often been taken to cover some of the same ground signified by the notion of culture itself. Prominent here have been the concepts of ideology and consciousness (particularly its collective forms).

com/doc/1O88- -culturaltheory. 1961) and E. The structuralist version of cultural theory was also strongly informed by Louis Althusser's version of Marxism. In this formulation culture could be read as a signifying system through which the social world was mapped.The works of Raymond Williams (The Long Revolution. Rotmans. 1994. 1995).encyclopedia.. HYPERLINK "http://www. Janssen and Rotmans. as embodied in cultural languages and codes. These emphasized the external symbolic structures of culture. This work raises a number of important issues in doing integrated assessments. Both Williams and Thompson studied the lived dimension of culture and the active and collective process of fashioning meaningful ways of life. The TARGETS group is to be commended for their attempt to make explicit the role of cultural perspectives on model outcomes. which combines anthropological and ecological insights. that is often isolated from the disciplines that contribute to it. rather than its lived forms. Williams's emphasis on culture as a µwhole way of life¶ and Thompson's emphasis on culture as the way in which groups µhandle¶ the raw material of social and material existence opened up new ways of thinking about culture²in particular uncoupling the concept from a narrow literary and aesthetic reference. Althusser offered a reworking of Marxist theories of ideology which gave greater scope to the efficacy of the ideological realm. The TARGETS group base their representations of cultural theory on the work of Schwartz and Thompson (1990) and Thompson et al. 1963) have been particularly influential in the development of post-war British cultural theory. Among them is the issue of how a hybrid community like that of integrated assessment. One of the more recent bold initiatives in this regard is the attempt to account for the role that cultural perspectives play in framing outcomes in the TARGETS integrated assessment model (van Asselt et al. where the field from which the theoretical perspective is imported (cultural anthropology) is relatively . The so-called culturalist reading of the term developed by both Thompson and Williams was subsequently challenged by other more obviously structuralist interpretations. provides quality control over theoretical and analytical perspectives that are imported into the integrated assessment realm for the first time. as in this case. In particular he emphasized the relative autonomy of the ideological or cultural domain whilst holding on to the principle of the ultimately determining character of economic relations and processes. Thompson (The Making of the English Working Class. (1990).html Cultural Theory Integrated assessment models attempt to account for interactions between social and natural systems. This problem is especially acute. 1995. P.

It is unclear whether different people would make the same assignments of a set of cultural characteristics to the different groupings. We also question whether it is appropriate to apply it to biophysical phenomena in integrated assessment models as the TARGETS group does. Other classification schemes. These concerns take on added significance in light of the claims of universality. like the others. this raises the question of the robustness of these cultural classifications. Cultural theory is one of many approaches that have been used to cope with the subjectivity inherent in analyzing long term global change. Industrialists (Lave and Dowlatabadi. However. is another interpretive scheme. and the great difficulty of doing this contributes to a lack of robustness in the implementation of cultural theory in integrated assessment models. incompleteness. and hierarchist groupings in the Thompson et al. 1993) make no claims of universality[FN].distant from the usual areas of expertise of integrated assessment practitioners. neighborhoods. Technocentrists (O'Riordan. These formulations might then provide the archetype for future representations of that type in integrated assessment models. . In fact. We are also concerned that the integrated assessment community has few mechanisms in place to critique good cultural theory from bad cultural theory. cultural theory on the other hand claims to provide a universal basis for its taxanomy. they also provide a primary distinction between Thompson et al. The problem of robustness is even more acute when the Thompson et al. As we discuss below. and model bias as follows: Robustness: The egalitarian. and good implementations of cultural theory in integrated assessment models from bad implementations of cultural theory. cultural theory. In other words. and complexity of universal cultural underpinnings. Ecocentrists vs. The users of cultural theory in integrated assessment models make the assumption that because people have different perspectives. Rotmans et al. cultural theory is explicitly put in to integrated assessments. Thompson et al. We dispute the claim that the Thompson et al. The range of our concerns might best be summarized under the headings robustness. for example. They argue that distinctive sets of values. and. it could be argued that cultural theory is not a theory at all. soil moisture changes. tribes and races) are reducible to only a few cultural biases and preferences''. individualist. (1990) claim that their cultural theory is universal. the limitations of their taxonomies are self-evident. and Environmentalists vs. cultural theory is extended to categorize biophysical phenomena such as CO2 fertilization. cultural theory are necessarily idealizations and generalizations. and this is generally understood by the users of Thompson et al. the role of these perspectives can therefore be elicited and characterized. beliefs and habits (in nations. It is not clear to us that it does. diversity. For that matter. cultural theory represents a realistic model of the richness. 1995). It is not clear at all that this can be done. we are concerned about what is left out when the Thompson et al. There is a distinct danger that ill-formed or untested insights from outside disciplines can too easily become entrenched in integrated assessment models without undergoing critical review. (1994) note that ``Thompson et al. cultural theory and other approaches. claims of universality are highly controversial and difficult to defend. and what is arbitrarily introduced in the process.

Incompleteness (what gets left out) : The cultural theory of Thompson et al. historical backgrounds and chance. IA models with different structure and design will be able to represent different aspects of culture. However. though it is not our purpose to provide a complete listing here.edu/ html . Unless we pursue non-modelling IA approaches in tandem with modelling approaches. it will be necessary to initiate studies of cultural theory and global change in nonmodelling integrated assessment frameworks as well. though any single model will always exclude certain facets when a particular model structure is chosen.ciesin. and personality are difficult to capture in the Thompson et al.tg/RKP95/node12.. we have to be aware that selective compromises will be made in the exercise. esthetics.edu/mva/iamcc. In the implementation of Thompson et al. leaves out numerous important facets of culture. Model Bias (what gets put in) : It is also important to bear in mind that much of what is left out when cultural theory is added to integrated assessment models may not even be amenable to the modeling form. or possibly. It does not lend itself to ready quantification in an integrated modeling framework''. use of the model framework selectively employs from the cultural domain only those attributes which can be expressed in parameterized form in the model. In other words. and introduces a model bias in representation of the theory is not reason not to engage in the exercise. entails incompleteness.ciesin.html"http://sedac. ever changing and uncertain. and the shortcomings of the theory and the biases introduced in model implementation of the theory should be explicitly articulated. policies and outcomes are determined by who we are as egalitarians.columbia. policy options are determined by setting various model parameters according to the preferences classified by the different cultural perspectives. The uncertainties in these sorts of parameters are very weak functions of world view. and arguably have more to do with epistemological ignorance about complex properties of the Earth system than they do with cultural characteristics. Suffice is to say that cultural features such as kinship. the insights from integrated assessments will be skewed by incorporating only that which is most easily represented in model frameworks HYPERLINK "http://sedac. partly as a result of earlier decisions made according to earlier preferences. political and institutional is highly variable. As part of this latter process. ``much of the cultural. But just who we are changes according to the sorts of choices we make. hierarchists. or individuals. The assignment of cultural attributes to variables whose cultural associations are very weak or hard to tease out is bound to lead to arbitrary analyses. cultural theory in the TARGETS model.and aerosol effects in integrated assessment models (van Asselt et al. 1995). indeterminate and unpredictable. In the words of Shackley and Wynne (1995). Any static view of cultural theory fails to capture the dynamic nature of human perspectives which change over time. perhaps spanning much of what we value in this domain. The fact that implementation of any particular version of cultural theory in IA models lacks robustness. Furthermore.columbia. cultural theory framework.

characterizing relationships. it may be difficult to apply the preliminary theories of this research to HCI. The CSCW (Computer Supported Cooperative Work) community is a new field that tries to merge these areas (HCI and social and cultural models). Another limitation is that there is dispute about social theories and computer related socialability: there is fear that online communities. and Limitations Social and cultural theories have broad scope in HCI research. this paper attempts to give a general picture of the type of research that is important to the HCI community. email. Technology greatly affects the social patterns of people. the reader is encouraged to investigate the theories further by looking at the links and references.´ Evaluation. while individual behavior (cognition) is fairly well understood. Olson & Olson report that they are still at the stage of ³building illustrative point systems. social and cultural theories become more relevant for HCI.umd. These theories affect HCI research and are affected by HCI research. groups. so instead of specific details. Social and cultural theories can help define new areas and give new perspectives to HCI research. or usage of the Internet destroys personal social relationships. Many of these topics warrant full descriptions (or books) to understand the impact. The way that social theories is understood can also affect technology. or examples of what can be done to support work with computers. either as individuals.Social and Cultural Theories Kendra Knudtzon kendra@cs. group or cooperative behavior (social/cultural) is an active area of research: there is still much to be understood. and so the two . In addition. as such. or communities. and finding models or theories that guide system design are still primarily unexplored areas of research (Olson & Olson 1997). so in addition to the general overview. Social and cultural theories are very broad topic to discuss in a paper of this scope. As people increasingly use technology to communicate with one another.edu October 2002 Overview Social and cultural theories strive to explain how people relate to each other and/or the surrounding environment. Scope. Technology needs to be designed in a way that supports this cooperative behavior. Social and cultural research is still at a defining stage. Sociability becomes as important as usability when designing interfaces for collaborative/communicative technologies. and thus traditional theories of sociology might not be relevent when these new factors (like the technology) are introduced. Application.

but the interaction goes both ways. Social and cultural theories can be useful in HCI research. Social and cultural research is not "neat" scientific research: there are too many factors that complicate the research. this community is looking at groups/organizations and cooperative technologies and thinking about the human contexts. More information at: http://www. This section outlines some of the areas of active research in these domains.utoronto. challenges theories of cognitive psychology. social.uci. another growing field.pdf The CSCW community. design.slis. Similarly. and industry perspectives.ics. group/team.slis. often with unclear or disputed models or theories of interaction. which leads to very qualitative research.ca/~wellman/publications/electronicgroup/electronicgroup. analyzing individual. Principles There are many social and cultural theories that relate to HCI. Because the understanding of groups and organizations is just emerging (and is more limited than understanding of individual behavior). which says that a description of an activity should include details of how it is situated in its physical.indiana.interact in a complex way. looks at how technologies affect human behavior. and consequences of technology. The CSCW community also focuses on the socio-technical gap (the difference between what social aspects are necessary for a system and the ability to support those aspects in the technology. cultural. but others pull descriptive theories from several areas and try to start understanding the areas of research that might produce new theories.edu/~ackerman/pub/00a10/hci. social networks analysts try to describe fundamental patterns of social structure and how social networks can affect the behavior of people using them (Wellman). trying to predict under what conditions systems might fail. including use. It¶s a new field that is still formulating theories about how social aspects relate to computing in general.pdf Or in Olson and Olson: ³Research on computer supported cooperative work´ .edu/si/si2001. and other social relationships´(Kling). or trying to understand and describe technical areas with complex or ambigious outcomes.indiana.html http://www. organizations. some of these domains center around one encompassing theory. and thus influences their consequences for work.org/dlib/january99/kling/01kling. Much of the research in this area is qualitative.edu/SI/ and http://www.) The theory of situated action. ³The social context of information technology development and use plays a significant role in influencing the ways that people use information and technologies. but this relationship is not straightforward.html http://www. and historical environment. More information at: http://www.final. This field studies the aspects of technology and system design that are relevant to people¶s lives. organization. is influential in CSCW research (Olson & Olson).dlib. and thus the theories tend to be more descriptive. Social informatics studies social aspects of computerization.chass.

A shared purpose. who interact socially as they strive to satisfy their own needs or perform special roles. protocols. and laws that guide people's interactions. core attributes of an online community are: (Whittaker 1997) y y members have some shared goal. strong emotional ties and shared activities occurring between participants . need. (Preece 2000) The study of online communities looks at how HCI design affects community development. to support and mediate social interaction and facilitate a sense of togetherness. such as an interest. interest. According to Preece. rules. an online community consists of: y y y y People.Online Community research is a good example of how social theories and reseach interacts. or service that provides a reason for the community. her book (chapter 9) offers guidelines for sociability and usability. influences. rituals. The following diagram (Preece 2000) demonstrates the sociability and usability needs that should be addressed when developing communities. Preece encourages looking at sociability and usability separately to allow designers to focus on specific issues separately. information exchange. such as leading or moderating. in the form of tacit assumptions. Computer systems. According to Whittaker. In addition. need. Policies. or activity that provides the primary reason for belonging to the community members engage in repeated active participation and there are often intense interactions. and is influenced by HCI research.

susx.cudenver. In addition.edu/~mryder/itc/act_dff.edu/cogsci/publications/9403. More information at: http://www. Russian psychologists started this theory in the 1920s and 1930s.org/sigchi/bulletin/1997.htm Distributed cognition studies cognition. and that information from the group is redundant and variable. it develops and continuously evolves.asp http://www.acm.html http://cogsci. goal-oriented. and to recognize that a full understanding of a user¶s situation is necessary for useful design and evaluation. More information at: http://www.pdf Cultural theories examine people within in a culture and try to understand or predict how or why they act or react a certain way. protocols). the cognitive properties are different than the individuals¶ properties. Marcus and Gould looked at several dimensions of culture and applied them to global web interface design.org/pubs/interactions/vol2no4/depts/book.html) This theory helps to look at HCI in terms of activity. develops. social. Online community research is currently building theories focusing on attributes of online communities that can be used to predict which will flourish and which will die out. These applications can lead to discoveries about group processes.html http://www. Guidelines (like Preece's) try to help designers creating new communities.uk/users/yvonner/dcog. action.umbc.sscnet.ac.cudenver.ucsd. There are complex interactions between people within a system.y y y members have access to shared resources and there are policies for determining access to those resources reciprocity of information. ³Application of distributed cognition uses domain knowledge to warrant judgments about cognitive processes and aid in sifting through massive amounts of data´ (Halverson 1994).htm Activity theory looks at the relationships between a human and objects in the world. A key idea of this theory is that ³human mind comes to exist. More information at: http://carbon. from a cognitive. and can only be understood within the context of meaningful. Researchers studying online communities look at what makes successful communities.edu/~mryder/itc/act_dff.edu/onlinecommunities/index.ifsm. such as studying theories from sociology about physical communities and testing if these theories scale-up to online communities. In one study. language. and operation. and socially determined interactions between human beings and their material environment´ (Bannan in http://carbon. with Leontjev¶s model of activity as the most influential. this field is looking at long-term research issues.edu/soc/faculty/kollock/papers/design.cogs. A community is a process. Researchers in cognitive systems assume that when you have more than one person participating in a system. Cultural anthropologist . support and services between members shared context (social conventions.acm. and organizational perspective.html http://www.3/whittaker.ucla. and distributed cognition theories look at these interdependencies and try to understand the nature of communication and communication breakdowns in a system. ³It offers a set of perspectives on human activity and a set of concepts for describing that activity´(Nardi). and these discoveries can influence HCI system design.

among many other key names. Terence Hawkes (1977) Structuralism and Semiotics.g. the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory (CCCT) is embedded within a rich and vibrant research environment offering excellent opportunities for both discipline based and interdisciplinary research. Many members of the Centre are also members of the English Literature Research Group. femininity vs. and there is regular dialogue with the School¶s Philosophy Group. The dimensions of culture were power-distance. Roland Barthes. It was established in 1989 to create an institutional space for teaching and research in the (then) new field of theory. The first of its kind in the UK.Geert Hofsteade outlined five dimensions of culture that Marcus and Gould used as a basis for understanding global web design. Christopher Norris (1982) Deconstruction: Theory and Practice and Chris Weedon (1987) . and indeed one of the first anywhere in the world. particularly those working in the area of Continental Philosophy. The centre¶s founding members wrote pioneering works ± e. Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan. The Centre has a long and distinguished history as a field-leader. short-term orientation. Communication and Philosophy and with strong links to the Cardiff Humanities Research Institute. Catherine Belsey (1980) Critical Practice. masculinity.html Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory (CCCT) Chair: Professor Chris Weedon Director of Postgraduate Research: Dr Laurent Milesi Situated in the Cardiff School of English. Jacques Derrida. These dimensions can act as models or theories for understanding the user when developing HCI systems. HYPERLINK s/tichi/social. and long vs. collectivism vs. the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory quickly built a strong international reputation for research into the work of Louis Althusser. individualism. uncertainty avoidance.

In recent years it has organised conferences on µAlain Badiou¶ (2002). Deleuze Studies. collective memory Posthumanism Postmodernism In addition. nation and culture. More information is provided on the School¶s international page. Conferences and Workshops In addition to its regular seminar series. µDeleuze and Cinema¶ (2006) and µTheory.Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory ± that contributed significantly to the establishment of the field of theory as an area of teaching and research in the contemporary university and still today function as standard points of reference for scholars and students.) The Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory¶s main fields of research include: y y y y y y y Critical theory: Deconstruction. at which Bernard Stiegler gave one of the distinguished keynote addresses. They also participate in activities in the School¶s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research. individual projects exist in law and literature and music and culture. Poststructuralism Cultural history Film and media studies Gender and sexuality Postcolonialism. Members of the Centre edited a number of journals and book series: Journals and Book Series Research Seminars. . CCCT continues to be at the forefront of teaching and research in the now very well established field of theory. (See the Centre's Annual Report. as its recent conferences and publications amply demonstrate. Faith and Culture¶ (2007). In 2008 the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory hosted the inaugural international Deleuze Studies conference. Members of CCCT are involved in interdisciplinary networks on µCrime Narratives in Context¶ and µWales-Ireland¶. the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory regularly hosts international conferences attracting high profile speakers from all over the world. After marking its twentieth anniversary with an international conference on µZoontotechnics (Animality / Technicity)¶. Postgraduate Research Students and Visiting Scholars The School offers two Postgraduate courses in this field: y y MA in Critical and Cultural Theory MPhil/PhD Programme in Critical and Cultural Theory The School very much welcomes applicants from students from outside the United Kingdom.

which is a founding member of the Consortium of Institutes of Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences. http://www. based on earlier collaboration in the Research Centre of Culture and Communication of the University of Tartu. media and life story research. and the sustainability of cultural research in Estonia. Semiotics. folklore heritage. and by becoming acquainted with other spheres of research. Cultural Communication Studies. In cooperation research groups search for connections between viewpoints in different disciplines such as ancient social and cultural systems. Religious Studies.The Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory has a number of Erasmus exchange programs in place supporting both staff and students. contemporary everyday practices. http://www. and Contemporary Cultural Studies. Ethnology.uk/encap/research/ccct/ The Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory (CECT) is a project of the European Union Regional Development Fund (2008±2015). The CECT depends on transdisciplinary and inter-university (University of Tartu and Tallinn University) cooperation.html Culture theory . through the creation of an interdisciplinary environment. Professor of Archaeology at Tartu University. The leader of the CECT is Valter Lang. etc.cardiff. The Centre of Excellence focuses in its research on the inheritance and creativity of cultural practices through the 11 000-year history.ee/CECT/eng.ac. evolution and translatability of sign systems. the development of cooperation. Landscape Studies. Cardiff Humanities Research Institute (CHRI) The Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory maintains an active affiliation with Cardiff Humanities Research Institute. theories and analytical methods. We strive towards significant changes in both the self-understanding of disciplinary fields and in the comprehension of general theoretical models by juxtaposing and comparing data. landscape and sociological processes. from ancient times to nowadays. decisions relating to the CECT involve the leaders and representatives of all research groups. The Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory contributes to developing the methodological and theoretical levels in cultural research. The CECT is made up of the following research groups: Archaeology. Folkloristics.ut.

Culture theory is the branch of anthropology and semiotics (not to be confused with cultural sociology or cultural studies) that seeks to define the heuristic concept of culture in operational and/or scientific terms. one that brings coherence across many disciplines and reflects an integrating elegance http://en. Moreover. the free encyclopedia This article is about culture. This articulation would suggest that we are just beginning to understand what might be required for a more robust theory of culture and culture change. and most cultural change can be attributed to human adaptation to historical events. but human brains are bigger. According to many theories that have gained wide acceptance among anthropologists. Acceleration and amplification of these various aspects of culture change have been explored by complexity economist. with no direct adaptive value. Brian Arthur. Similarly. see Cultural Theory of risk. W. "culture" was used by some to refer to a wide array of human activities. whereas others used it to refer to symbolic representations and expressions of human experience. Both groups understood culture as being definitive of human nature. bonobos exhibit complex sexual behaviour. For example.From Wikipedia. Behind that novel combination is a purposeful effort arising in human motivation. Although most anthropologists try to define culture in such a way that it separates human beings from other animals. As such. anthropologists often debate whether human behaviour is different from animal behaviour in degree rather than in kind. and by others as a synonym for "civilization". For Cultural Theory. including the adaptive strategies of other primates and non-human hominids. given that culture is seen as the primary adaptive mechanism of humans and takes place much faster than human biological evolution. chimpanzees have big brains. In the 19th century. they must also find ways to distinguish cultural behaviour from sociological behaviour and psychological behavior.org/wiki/Culture_theory . In the 20th century. particularly the traits of other primates. anthropologists began theorizing about culture as an object of scientific analysis. many human traits are similar to those of other animals. but human beings exhibit much more complex sexual behaviours. culture becomes such an integral part of human existence that it is the human environment. Arthur attempts to articulate a theory of change that considers that existing technologies (or material culture) are combined in unique ways that lead to novel new technologies. culture exhibits the way that humans interpret their biology and their environment. According to this point of view. Some used it to distinguish human adaptive strategies from the largely instinctive adaptive strategies of animals. The Nature of Technology.wikipedia. In his book. most cultural change can be viewed as culture adapting to itself.

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