Communication and cultural diversity in ODL: From a wired learner to
a transnational citizen.
Domingo Sánchez-Mesa Martínez.
Dpt. Lingüística General y Teoría de la Literatura
Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. Campus "La Cartuja".
Universidad de Granada
Granada 18071. SPAIN.
A series of profound cultural changes are taking place as the millennium
fades away. The speed of communication and the ubiquity of media have introduced
new modalities of cultural mobility to an already extraordinary mobile
end of the century (mobility of professionals, communication, travellers,
tourists, armies, goods, information, trends, financial waves, exiled and
refugees, immigrants, etc.). Never before we have come so close to a global
culture, never before the contradictions, benefits and threats of this
globalization have become so evident, never before had our relationship
with reality been so intensively and systematically mediated.
The real chances for Europe to become a political multicultural unit,
once the economic and the monetary union are successfully achieved, rest
considerably on the endeavour fostered in the educational field, where
transnational experiences are progressively more common as European networks
and projects proliferate. Cultural diversity and linguistic heterogeneity
within the communities involved in these networks is a wealth which, although
apparently celebrated as such by political decision makers, education and
academic managers, teaching staff and students themselves , is nevertheless
often seen as an "obstacle" to communication and collective co-operation
among new members. I would like to offer an alternative approach here ,
convinced as I am of the urgent need to enlarge the time and space devoted
in our academic syllabi to provide our students with the opportunities
to access, reflect and comprehend the multifarious and hybrid genetics
of both the past and the present of this historical reality called Europe.
In the same vogue we need to raise the awareness of our future European
professionals on how heavily our immediate future depend on a dialogical
attitude to other cultures in other continents, an attitude to be gained
only through a reflective and critical learning on a networked kind of
knowledge, a knowledge more focused on linkages and relationships than
on specific and very local mastery of data..
2. Communication management & cultural diversity in international academic
Drawing upon our previous experiences in a number of ODL projects (Humanities
I & II, Virtue, Transcult, Euroliterature) I would like to sketch slightly
more in depth what is the landscape we usually contemplate when coping
with communication and diversity in virtual education.
Our first step will consist on a clarification of what do we mean by
"culture" (a complex repertoire of behavioural and communicative models
and the discursive practices drawn upon them) and "language" (as discourse,
i.e., language as its actually used, charged with all the different social
accents and their contradictory evaluations).
Stemming from such provisional interpretations of both concepts, and
bearing in mind the impact of the new computer mediated communicative framework
(the second media age with its increasing mobility) on those concepts
and the practices incorporated to them, we will be in the position to avoid
simplistic reduction of cross-cultural and linguistics designs in ODL to
the rules prevailing in official geopolitical and linguistic maps. However,
as it was mentioned above, it is not rare to observe a short-sighted philosophy
on cultural and linguistic diversity on behalf of institutional agencies.
The reasons for this are also to be discussed.
3. Why virtual transcultural instruction becomes so relevant in virtual
Among some other reasons we might mention as the most pertinent the following
ODL networks can constitute a privileged case of a multicultural virtual
community, helping to raise the awareness on the particular conditions
in which new "real" multicultural situations take place in the age of mobility
. On the other hand, they can contribute to avoid the secession of the
so called "on-line public sphere" from the actual political struggle outside
cyberspace. This is why basically what justifies our defence of the concept
of "transnational thinking" and "citizenship" against the reproduction
of national clichés in a new isolating concept of the Subject (to
Transcultural ODL programs will probably match more successfully the demands
of the transnational labour market, eventually introducing some extra skills
to the standard profile of the multinationals` employee. Or, to
put it in another way, can/must the educational institutions do anything
else than following the laws of the labour market, thus, of capital ?
The success or failure in the building of these "new " kind of societies
can enlarge our knowledge about how communities are established and how
"new" and more traditional types of societies do mingle. A historical approach
to the connections between technology and culture may help the community
of learners to understand the relativity of the new "technological revolution",
therefore, to adopt some critical stances when necessary.
ODL transnational programs in the Humanities can become a powerful tool
to rethink the process of cultural and economical globalization from a
different rationale than the one so far prevailing, the rationale of global
capitalism. Virtual educational networks can foster the necessary endeavour
of rethinking the global from the local without falling into the traps
either of the new forms of nationalism nor of the new modes of colonialism
(illustration of this will be provided in the final version of this paper).
Concepts and methodologies highly estimated at the current state of the
Humanities, namely interdisciplinarity, networking, flexibility, transculturality,
multilingualism... can become more than easy terminological clichés,
as they become indispensable working tools.
The design and production of transnational ODL courses based on a dialogical
and functional approach can provide interpretative cultural models to a
number of fringed cultures within Europe which can be no more left
behind if EU educational and cultural policy aims beyond a good willing
but groundless agenda.
Although implicit in the previous sections, a set of possible recommendations
are also provided within the conclusive part of this paper. These insights,
addressed to the various level of agency involved in ODL networking, are
all the time based in empirical evidence (the number of ODL projects mentioned
above). In any case, there are powerful evidences to be satisfied of the
increase of awareness and resources devoted to develop and maintain both
research and educational programs dealing with intercultural and transcultural
phenomenon or setting out transcultural and multilinguistic learning scenarios.
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