Are you thinking what I’m thinking, B1?

An interesting thought that hit me at this week’s COMS101 lesson was how Edward T. Hall has a theory of how one’s culture can be reflected by how one behaves when he/she is challenged.

Introducing “Room101”, a locally produced variety show that pits its contestants with weekly challenges where losers will face elimination, giving up their chance of an adventure holiday with a friend.

I refer to this challenge as it represents the views of Individualism vs Collectivism by Harry Triandis’ as well as the classic dimension of cultures by Edward Hall.

Though the players in the game know that the prize is only for one (individualist goal), the short term goal of winning the week’s challenge in the video becomes a group goal (collectivist goal). We can see great readiness to cooperate in the groups of three, who were once competitors.
The conformity to cooperate, forging a high interdependence and even self-sacrifice for in-group members can be witnessed in the video (4.15min, where Farid is pushing Elizabeth forward). Even this episode’s challenge had a reward equal in distribution, where being the last to complete meant elimination of the entire team.

Ethan (1.28min), an interesting character in the series, strikes me as more of an individualist. Although he had conformed to the week’s goals, his freedom of speech and honesty amongst his group members show when he instructs them how to say the group’s cheer (1.32min). At 2.25min,
his struggling toward the objective with a speech of how “I AM GANDOLF” also gives his cultural background away, as mentioned by Edward T. Hall. At this moment you can see his “separation” from his group mates behind him. His difference amongst the rest interprets to me how an individualist, can stand out of the crowd and seem like a misfit trying to conform with the others, even having a reaction from Natasha to “shut up” at 2.29min.

Using Edward Hall’s theory of the classic dimension of culture, my assessment of the players in the game also tells me that they belong to a “low contact culture”. The players in the game are highly verbally expressive, especially when the round started. At 3.10 minutes in, the first group to win expressed how excited they were etc. An interesting point to note is how personal opinions of group members are told behind their backs and not confronted to them.

How about this one?

“Classroom 101” is highly similar to the situation we are facing in SIM. During our terms in school, we too are put into groups to adapt a collectivism culture amongst the team members. At the end of our studies in SIM, our results are of our own and they represent a singular student. When the stressful moments of disagreements and deadlines hit, we may witness the control mechanism of our friends, reflecting their cultural background/standing. The individualist may have his/her own goals, seem out of place, not working together with the rest.

My take is how although freedom of the individualist does seem to be special, creative and at times ideal, collectivism is not necessarily negative as the groups seen in the video above completed their tasks together quickly with a common goal. Projects in school can be completed faster by delegating work with quality checked by the importance of social validity and mutual sympathy for one another. An occasional individualist can give us refreshing views and perceptions that both sides can benefit. Is there a society that is truly one but not the other? I feel the situation followed by the role that we take on (hence the size and proximity of the society) shows our current stand amongst these two concepts.

The theory of Individualism versus Collectivism can also be seen from the classic “LEEROY JENKINS!!” case study from the World of Warcraft online game. Now, can you spot the individualist in this video?

All images and videos are not owned by me but by their respective owners.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Caitlin on July 18, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    i would think that one should be flexible, in that we should know when to be individualistic and when to be collectivistic so as to function better in different circumstances. while i do acknowledge that there will definitely be a dominant characteristic in us, be it individualistic or collectivistic, i feel it would certainly aid us in many ways to maintain a flexible working style to prevent any unnecessary conflicts.


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