Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Tuesday, February 11, 2003day link 

 People are different
picture I always find it fascinating to discover the different ways that people work differently. The ways we tick by different clocks, the ways we live within different worldviews, the ways we think differently and have different instincts. Not good or bad ways, but just different ways things are right for us. To embrace all of those differences will necessarily bring about a certain feeling of unity amongsts us.

As I'm preparing for moving to France, I'm reading a lot of books, including books about how French people are peculiarly different from Americans. "French or Foe" by Polly Platt is a delightful and very helpful book in regards to understanding the French culture from the inside.

One of the sources of understanding she mentions is the work of the renowned anthropologist Edward T. Hall. He wrote a book called "An Anthropology of Everyday Life" for one thing. He has studied how people work differently in different cultures. One distinction is whether people are 'monochronic' or 'polychronic'. That is when talking about how people relate to time. Monochronic people give great importance to doing things on time, and they tend to do things linearly and orderly, one at a time, and if somebody throws off the schedule by not doing what they're supposed to at the right time, they get upset. Polychronic people on the other hand relate to time totally differently. Actually, they focus more on people and relationships, and they do many things at the same time, and if something doesn't happen at the specified time, they know that it is because other things came up, and it isn't a big deal. The U.S., England, Germany, Scandinavia - they're predominantly monochronic cultures. There are many individuals who might be different, though, so it is just as an overall stereotype. Most other countries are polychronic. Certainly Mediteranean countries, Middle East, Africa, most of Asia. 'Tomorrow' might mean tomorrow, the day after, next week, or next month, all depending on lots of things, and also depending on the nuances within those individual cultures.

Another distinction in how different people experience the world is whether they're 'high context' or 'low context'. Again, most of the Northern countries are low context. That means that many things can be done without much pretext or context. You can call somebody you don't know on the phone, and 5 minutes later you might have carried out a business transaction and you're done with it. What is important is what is accomplished. A quick in and out and you're done. High context cultures on the other hand require much more to be involved. You primarily deal with people you know or that your family or friends know. There is a lot of codes of behavior that are important. Lots of things need to be right before one can carry out a transaction with somebody. Doesn't necessarily have to take a long time, but a number of things certainly have to be in order.

France is described as primarily polychronic and high context.

One thing I notice is that elements of these distinctions are found in different people within any culture, and they might appear in different environments for different people at different times. I notice that I expect one or the other in certain situations, and might be puzzled when I run into a different program than I expect. There are certain kinds of information that it is very hard to get unless you know somebody who knows somebody who can answer your questions. I.e. it is only available through high context. In Los Angeles, in business, people are monochronic, but if you invite people for a party, they're polychronic. You can't possibly know whether they will come, or when, or who else they might bring.
[ | 2003-02-11 23:59 | 6 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 The World's Newspapers
picture This site shows the front page of most of the world's major newspapers today at the same time. That's rather neat. I personally like to have a big overview. I like anything that starts with the global view and then allows me to drill deeper into something that interests me.
[ | 2003-02-11 23:59 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

 High yield from India's GM crops
picture BBC report that farmers in India have had success with cotton crops that were genetically modified to resist insects. They achieved dramatically increased yields and needed significantly less pesticide treatment.

Is that good? I'm not sure. What I mostly have against GM is that it is manipulation of nature done by people who largely don't know what they're doing. Like people making nuclear bombs in their kitchens without bothering to check what they actually do. They don't think about the whole system. But neither does traditional mainstream farmers. They seem equally oblivious to the needs of ecosystems. Lots of technologies, like genetic engineering, might be a perfectly fine idea, if they were in knowledgable and responsible hands. I don't think they are.
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