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Tanveer Ahmad
Associate Professor
Dept of Mass Communication and Journalism
Rajshahi University

Culture is communication and communication is culture. (Edward T Hall, 1959)

Meaning of Communication
The word communication was originated from the Latin word communis
which means common. Communion, community, communism, commonality,
communalism etc. are some related words having the same linguistic roots.
Similarly, newer and newer terms are being coined as the concept of
communication assumes importance day by day. Communication technology,
communication media, communication age, communication management are just
a few. As the very term indicates, the ultimate aim of the communication process
is to create commonness between communicator and receiver of the message.
Through communication, both communicator and receiver enter into a mental
agreement. Thus, they achieve their goal, which may be expression of an emotion
or transmission of an idea. Transaction, interchange, in teraction, dialogue,
discussion, sharing, contact are some of the concepts that come up in our minds
when we refer to communication.Transaction, interchange, in teraction,
dialogue, discussion, sharing, contact are some of the concepts that come up in
our minds when we refer to communication.
1. Communication is the exchange of meanings between individuals through a
common system of symbols. (I.A.Richards).
2. The transmission of information, ideas attitudes, or emotion from one person
or group to another or others primarily through symbols. (Theodorson and

3. Communication is the transmission and interchange of facts, ideas, feeling or

course of action. (Leland Brown)
4. Communication is a social interaction through messages (Grabner, 1967)
5. The interchange of thoughts or information to bring about mutual
understanding and confidence or good human relation. (American society of
Training Directors).
6. One mind affecting another (Claude Shannon)
7. The mechanism through which human relations exist and develop (Wilbur
8. Transmission of stimuli (Colin Cherry)
9. Communication is the sum of all the things one person does when he wants to
create understanding in the mind of another. It is a bridge of meaning. It involves
a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening and understanding.
(Louis Allen)
10. Communication refers to the act by one or more persons, of sending and
receiving messages distorted by noise, within a context, with some effect and
with some opportunity for feedback (Joseph A.Devito)
The definitions given here indicate the following facts:
A world without communication is unthinkable
Communication is a complex process
Communication is essential for human relationships and progress
Human mind, body and physical conditions are vital components of
A common symbol system is essential for communication
Importance of Communication
The basic foundation of human society is communication and it takes place at
different levels within oneself, between individuals, between individual and a
group, between groups, between countries and so on. Similarly, we use verbal
and non - verbal forms of messages for communication. Communication is

essential for development of the society. We attain cultural, social and economic
prosperity by sharing out experiences. How can we share experience without
better communication? Personal enjoyment is commu nication based. Just think
of a person kept in isolation without any chance for communication with his
friends and relatives. It is really a punishment, a prison life. Communication
helps us interact with our surroundings, thus create positive relationships, share
love, build up friendship and depend each other to enjoy life. Can you imagine a
world without media? Not at all. The basic mission of mass media is to create ties
in human society sharing news. In modern world, media have some more roles to
play . Media defines our political system, form public opinion, support public
demands and set agenda of our social life. In short, no social activity, be it
marketing, business, education, politics, media profession..., is possible without
Functions of Communication
Considering the essentiality of communication, scholars enumerated the
following functions of it.
a) Education: To transfer knowledge for the progress of the society (Example:
class room communication)
b) Information: To find and explain some thing new (Example: News media)
c) Cultural promotion : To help foster social values and pass them from
generation to generation (Example: Festivals, parties, celebrations)
d) Social contact: To help make enjoyable companionship (Example: Friendship,
clubs, organizations etc.)
e) Integration: To create harmonious relationships among various social groups
(Example: Political parties, conferences, meetings etc.)
f) Stimulation: To create interest and develop positive thinking
/behavior(Example: Advertisements)
g) Counseling: To alleviate anxiety and lead to better ways (Example: guidance,
consolation etc.)

h) Expression of emotions (Example: crying, smiling etc)

i) Entertainment: To help pass time and enjoy life (Example: drama, song etc.)
j) Control function: To get someone to behave in an appropriate way (Example:
management, censorship etc)

Elements of Communication
Let us analyse Joseph A Devitos definition that communication refers to the act
by one or more persons, of sending and receiving messages distorted by noise,
within a context, with some effect and with some opportunity for feedback to
find out the essential elements of communication.
According to his definition, communication has the following elements:
a) Sender
b) Message
c) Channel
d) Receiver
e) Noise
f) Feedback
g) Context
h) Effect

What is culture?
The word 'culture' comes from the Latin cultus, which means 'care' or cultura
which means growing, cultivation, and from the French colere which means 'to
till' as in 'till the ground'. In late Middle English the sense was cultivation of the
soil and from this (early 16th century) arose cultivation (of the mind, faculties,
or manners).

Sir Edward Tylors definition in 1871 (first use of this term):

that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom,
and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society
Culture involves... what people think, what they do, and the material products
they produce.... It is shared... it is a social phenomenon.... Culture is learned, not
biologically inherited, and involves arbitrarily assigned, symbolic meanings....
The human ability to assign arbitrary meaning to any object, behavior or
condition makes people enormously creative and readily distinguishes culture
from animal behavior. People can teach animals to respond to cultural symbols,
but animals do not create their own symbols.
-- John H. Bodley (1943-), U.S. anthropologist
A societys culture consists of whatever it is one has to know or believe in order
to operate in a manner acceptable to its members.
-- Ward Goodenough (1919-), U.S. anthropologist

Culture consists of the beliefs, behaviors, objects, and other characteristics

common to the members of a particular group or society. Through culture,
people and groups define themselves, conform to society's shared values, and
contribute to society. Thus, culture includes many societal aspects: language,
customs, values, norms, mores, rules, tools, technologies, products,
organizations, and institutions.
Culture is, basically, a set of shared values that a group of people holds. Such
values affect how you think and act and, more importantly, the kind of criteria by
which you judge others. Cultural meanings render some behaviors as normal and
right and others strange or wrong. Every culture has rules that its members take
for granted. Few of us are aware of our own biases because cultural imprinting is
begun at a very early age. And while some of cultures knowledge, rules, beliefs,
values, phobias and anxieties are taught explicitly, most is absorbed
Of course, we are all individuals, and no two people belonging to the same
culture are guaranteed to respond in exactly the same way. However,
generalizations are valid to the extent that they provide clues on what you will
most likely encounter and how those differences impact communication.

Culture is Shared

To be a member of society means sharing a culture. In this sense, a society is

more than the sum of its members. Membership in a society necessarily involves
sharing a way of life, engaging in similar patterns of thought and behavior, such
as celebrating Naba-Borsho or spending years in school in similar way.

Culture is Learned

Human beings are not born with cultural patterns encoded into their DNA. No
one is born Christian or Muslim, Bangla/English-speaker, and facebook user. All
such patterns of behavior have to be learned, and the more complex the society
one lives in, the longer it takes to learn the necessary skills needed for
competent social participation. Accordingly, most members of postindustrial
societies spend long years in the educational system whereas member of the few
remaining hunting and gathering societies have no need for formal education
and rely rather on informal training. But however such learning takes place,
informally with a relative or in a formal setting such as a school, it is vital for
individuals to be able to become true members of society.

Culture is Nonmaterial

Nonmaterial culture comprises the software of society: specific shared ways of

thinking shared by members of society such as language, beliefs systems,
customs, myths, music, scientific knowledge or political ideas. And as mentioned
above, culture also involves shared ways of behaving, such as participating in
religious rituals or organized sports. These shared modes of thinking and
behaving all constitute non-material or intangible culture.

Culture is Material

Material culture includes all the hardware of social life, that is, all the material
and physical products of society: buildings, computers, IPods, bows and arrows,
DVDs and DVD players and all forms of technology. Technology consists in the
material application of knowledge, scientific or other.

Culture as a tool box

Because humans are not born with pre-determined solutions to most of lifes
problems, they use culture as a toolbox that provides answers that are learned
and shared. Culture provides material and non-material solutions to different
problems: how to find food, how to deal with social relationships, heal sickness
and express emotions. In other words, culture provides ready-made but variable
formulas on how to be a human being in a given society. And because the
problems faced by human societies change over time, culture is dynamic as new
solutions are needed.

What Is a Society?
The term "society" came from the Latin word societas, which in turn was derived
from the noun socius ("comrade, friend, ally"; adjectival form socialis) used to
describe a bond or interaction between parties that are friendly, or at least civil.
According to sociologists, a society is a group of people with common territory,
interaction, and culture.
Territory: Most countries have formal boundaries and territory that the world
recognizes as theirs. However, a societys boundaries dont have to be
geopolitical borders. Sometimes a society can be formed across borders, like
Tamils in India and SriLanka.
Interaction: Members of a society must come in contact with one another. If a
group of people within a country has no regular contact with another group,
those groups cannot be considered part of the same society. Geographic
distance and language barriers can separate societies within a country.
Culture: People of the same society share aspects of their culture, such as
language or beliefs. Culture refers to the language, values, beliefs, behavior,
and material objects that constitute a peoples way of life. It is a defining
element of society.
Many define society as the people who interact in such a way as to share a
common culture. The cultural bond may be ethnic or racial, based on gender, or
due to shared beliefs, values, and activities. The term society can also have a
geographic meaning and refer to people who share a common culture in a
particular location. For example, people living in arctic climates developed

different cultures from those living in desert cultures. In time, a large variety of
human cultures arose around the world.
There has been much debate over what makes a society successful. Philosopher
Thomas Hobbes believed that without society, human life would be "nasty,
brutish and short." Man's natural state, he argued, would be to preserve only
oneself -- a man without society would steal another family's food, seduce other
men's wives and kill anyone who got in his way. Of course, the same man would
be in constant danger of those things happening to him, his wife and his
children. What people needed, therefore, was a society, which would provide
protection by subjecting everyone to a set of rules. But the number of
governments, tribes and communities today demonstrate that there's no single
way to form or govern a society. Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau dubbed the
set of rules that a society lives by "the social contract." In other words, people
must play a part in agreeing to certain laws and in choosing a given leader. If
people lose that right, then society won't function as well.
Society is made up of individuals who have agreed to work together for mutual
benefit. It can be a very broad term, as we can make generalizations about what
the whole of Western society believes, or it can be a very narrow definition,
describing only a small group of people within a given community. But no
matter the size, and no matter the link that binds a society together, be it
religious, geographic, professional or economic, society is shaped by the
relationships between individuals.

Culture and society, though similar, are different things. Cultures are defined by
these learned behaviours and schemas. Societies at their simplest can be defined
as groups of interacting individuals. However, it is through this interaction that
individuals develop and communicate the markers of culture, and so in human
societies, it is very difficult to separate out culture and society.
And thus we come back to the role of communication within culture. The idea of
culture as something that is shared means that it is vital to understand culture
and communication in relation to one another. The relationship between culture
and communication, in all its forms, is tightly interwoven and interlinked. We

can see that communication enables the spread and reiteration of culture. Both
communications and the media propagate the values and schemas of a culture
through the repeated interaction and exchange enabled by the communications
Culture and society are intricately related. A culture consists of the objects of a
society, whereas a society consists of the people who share a common culture.