Texas A&M University at Qatar (QATAR)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Page: 3245
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
This study used computer-mediated discourse analysis to look at the manifestations of the emergence of a third culture in the discourse of an online course. The study also exemplified course design features that may as well act as factors to mediate the influence of the various dimensions of the cultural variability on the individual level communication.

The term “third culture” was first coined by science historian C. P. Snow (1969), who imagined a culture where literary intellectuals conversed directly with scientists. Mason cites (1998) Lundin's depiction of a third culture being constructed when materials from one culture are studied by people in a different culture: "Material from both the interacting cultures is used to fill locally and temporally defined functions outside both cultures but intelligible to participants from both who are involved in the particular interaction" (Mason, p. 156). A third culture is created through the interaction of national cultures, experience, and technology (as a covert carrier of cultural values) in an online environment (Raybourn, Kings, and Davies, 2003).

Research findings and related literature suggest that the following behaviors indicate the existence of third culture in a community:

• Producing timely and intelligent comments and equal levels of participation (Goodfellow, et. al. 2001)
• Materials from both cultures are used: personal experiences, cultural experiences, materials, ideas from own culture, practices (Lundin 1996 in Mason 1998)
• Constant interaction among participants (Kramsch, 1998)
• Creating a side conversation between two different cultures (Kramsch, 1998)
• A common discourse accent (Kramsch, 1998); words, expressions, acronyms created in the course
• Curiosity, sensitivity, openness towards otherness, critical engagement with others (Schuetz, 2005)
• Ability to understand and tolerate different perspectives and cultural phenomena (Schuetz, 2005)

In the present study, manifestations of these behaviors were observed in the online discourse, so one can claim that a third culture was indeed created in the online course studied in the present research.

Interactive digital technology is a covert carrier of cultural values, (Mudur, 2001, p. 304) thus an element of creating a third culture itself. This culture includes specific discourse “accent” (Kramsch, 1998), such as terminology, acronyms, and expressions. We can even hypothesize that, when interacting with technology, people are one culture, technology is the other and the resultant interaction, as a product, is third culture. Therefore, as designers, it is our responsibility to guide a community's culture to emerge from the user's co-creation of narratives and the subsequent communication events transpiring in the online course. The learners should own the cultural co-creation process. The quality and nature of the users' interactions determine the direction and rate with which a third culture emerges (Raybourn, et al., 2003).