Given the increased cultural diversity and globalization, the interest in intercultural communication (ICC) is on the rise. The field is highly interdisciplinary and it is marked by complexity. ICC is at the crossroads of various disciplines such as anthropology, social- and cross-cultural psychology, economy, sociolinguistics and so on. There are countless books and articles written from a variety of perspectives on the topic. The course aims to provide a critical evaluation of the major models on intercultural communication. Depending on the conceptualization of the relationship between culture, identity and language, scholars came up with different models of ICC. Traditional approaches to ICC attempted to classify cultures into categories and dimensions so that they could understand the differences between cultures. Earlier studies on ICC took ethnic groups, nations and organizations as units of analysis for categorization. Mostly social anthropologists studied social groups to understand the way cultures make sense of the physical and social world. Earlier studies understood culture as created by groups, transmitted to younger generations through processes of socialization and maintained through the institutions. This is an essentialist and primordialist approach to culture. In earlier studies, cultures differ from each other because they have different norms and values as well as behavior. ICC for traditional approaches meant comparing cultures to identify basic dimensions of national cultures. Traditional approaches still have a huge impact on ICC studies. Most influential models of the traditional approach are critically discussed during the lectures. Alternative models to the traditional approaches such as the construction of social space and negotiating reality are reflected upon. People who come from different backgrounds interact in a social space. The type of interactions, the rules that govern those interactions, and the type of relations among the interactants become the focus of constructivist intercultural communication studies. The unit of analysis in a constructionist approach is neither individual nor the group but the relationship between the actions of actors and the context of situation. In line with the traditional approaches, it is necessary to discuss intercultural communication competences that are needed for individuals to understand cultural commonalities and differences. Various approaches to research on intercultural communication competence are critically discussed on the basis of actual case studies.
Traditional approaches of ICC cannot be utilized effectively in understanding the virtual interactions taking place in the new Internet based media. In the era of perpetual contact, individuals interact with many persons in virtual spaces. In most cases, there is no single physical encounter. We need new digital theories of intercultural contact and new approaches to intercultural communication. We cannot talk about cultures in the traditional sense because individuals live in virtual spaces and virtual cultures not grounded in time or space. Some researchers refer to these virtual cultures as pseudo-communities as opposed to traditional organic communities, which are bound by physical space and rely on face-to-face communication. Traditional theories on social identity and identification would not describe the personal identity and group identification of individuals in the new Internet era. Social media applications, such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, are creating a new virtual culture that challenges traditional cultural representations. Next to the traditional approaches, the Course focuses on online aspects of intercultural communication as well.