Our Viewing Templates: Stereotyping

What are the things that come to your mind when you think of Italy? Is it Pasta? Pizza? The stunning and varied countryside? Or cities of art?

Apparently, “What Country” app from the iTunes store describes Italy as the home of pizza, scooters, and the Mafia, the last of which is illustrated with an image of a “Mafia parking only” sign. This Mafia reference has upset Italy’s Minister of Tourism, Michela Vittoria Brambilla , who says that the references are insulting to the dignity of Italians. Thus, Ms Brambilla has demanded that Apple remove its iPhone and iPad application, “What Country” from its online store because it uses negative stereotypes to describe Italy.

Perhaps some may think that Ms Brambilla is being a little too uptight. After all, “What Country” didn’t mean to smear Italy’s name and hopes users will “explore and discover funny, strange and exciting peculiarities of various countries around the world” through such phrases and photos. But I could understand Ms Brambilla’s action.

Media can be a powerful tool in creating or reinforcing stereotypes; it can affect the way society views them and change society’s expectations of them. Media influence is dependent on the direct experiences the public has with the issue addressed by the media. Media may not be successful in telling us what to think, but they are extremely successful in telling us what to think about it. With enough exposure to a stereotype, society may come to view it as a reality rather than as a chosen representation. Also, the image of a “Mafia parking only” sign accompanying the issue play a huge part in altering people’s standards of perception; whereas there is a saying that “a picture speaks a thousand words” proves the effectiveness of the image to a certain extent. In this case, it may lead to some having prejudices toward the Italians.

Such negative stereotypes not only affect how society view them, it also influence how people perceive themselves. The feeling that the rest of the world doesn’t respect or understand you does little to encourage a positive sense of self-worth. Hence, we should never understate the seriousness of stereotyping.

However, not all stereotyping are negative. By using stereotypes, it allows us to draw conclusion faster; whereby a complex issue could reduce to a simple understandable issue. Stereotypes are our viewing templates by which we make sense of the world around us, regardless of context and accuracy. Thus, we must be mindful about the way we stereotype things.

Read more of the news: http://www.italymag.co.uk/italy/arts-and-culture/tourism-minister-demands-removal-iphone-app

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Managing Conflict Between Two

Relationships do not always run smoothly; often in a relationship there would be a conflict from time to time. Many of us have this perception whereby conflict is bad for a relationship; as it usually damages and cause a relationship to end. Indeed, conflict occurs maybe due to differences in perception; when couple do not see eye to eye on a certain matter. However, conflict occurs because both parties still care for the other; no arguments can be continued if one or both doesn’t bother about the other. Thus, conflict acts as a form of communication. If the conflict is managed successfully, it can strengthen the relationship and not lead to termination.

There are many ways to deal with conflict. Different individuals have their own preferred ways of doing so. Whether they will resolve the conflict or whether will worsen it, will depend on their conflict styles and their attitudes toward the conflict. Below is a clip from the movie “Crazy Stupid Love” shows two different ways and attitudes opt by two individuals in a relationship.

Seen in the clip, Emily Weaver approached the conflict using direct confrontation where she directly addresses the problem she and her husband, Cal Weaver had. This direct expression of feelings allows the other party to know what are her needs to be met. However, Cal in response, opt for withdrawing. The minute he sensed the conflict, he tried to stop his wife from addressing it; telling if she keeps talking, he will get out of the car. As Emily ignored and continued on approaching the subject, he tried to avoid and escaped by getting out of the car. The method of withdrawing is only appropriate if the issue is unimportant and there is no need to build a strong relationship with the other party or if engaging in the conflict would worsen the issue. However, in Carl’s case, withdrawing just postpones his problem and make it worse.

From Emily’s and Cal’s case, we can see that when two different styles and attitudes used toward the conflict can actually clashed and make the matter worse. However, that does not means that adopt the same methods and attitudes could solve the problem either. For example, if both opt for withdrawing, the conflict would usually ends up in one party gunnysacking where he/she would explode in anger at a certain point. It is essential for both parties to adopt a certain way of managing interpersonal conflict that complements the other depending on the seriousness of the conflict. For example, one could try to accommodating for unimportant issues to please someone you cares for and thus not making the matter worse. But this is not the best alternative way as over-doing it would result in unstated resentment.

The best way of managing interpersonal conflict is through problem solving. Problem solving means both parties sit down together, being open and direct to thrash out the problem and seeking options that benefit everyone. This process often needs people to see and understand things from other person’s point of view. This is better than reaching a middle ground that satisfies no one. But we do not use this method often.

In my case, I often opt for either accommodating or withdrawing. I am certain to tell you that I always ended up gunnysacking at the other party. At this point, often the other party got offend by my action and does not understand why I had this “sudden” blew up. In turn, the conflict got worse.

Often in many cases, it would be one party trying to accommodating or compromising the other as they are fearful of conflict, whereas aggressive people often see problem solving or compromise as weakness. Thus, it is hard to address the conflict in terms of mutual interests.

Managing a relationship is never easy; conflict happens to everyone from time to time. What are your experience in dealing with conflict? And how do you feel about the fact that people seldom practice problem solving when dealing with a conflict?

Unspoken Words

“Unspoken words – where actions speak louder than words.”

Non-verbal communication plays an important key factor in communicating. It is non-linguistic and contains intentional symbolic behavior. There are various types of non-verbal communications such as kinesics (body language), paralinguistics (pitch of the voice), chronemics (time), objectics or artifacts, oculesics (eyes), haptics (touch), proxemics (space) and lastly physical appearance. 75% of the message is encoded in these non-verbal cues which are an extremely influential source of meaning. Many of us would not have realised this and we tend to under value non-verbal cues.

I stumbled upon this video – Operation Smile on Youtube and felt happy for the girl. Although, mainly in this clip does not have any verbal communication, most of us could understand and interpret from the non-verbal cues shown. Basically, from the clip, we can conclude that this cheerful child is a patient who has a cleft lip and hides her face behind the pink stuff toy due to the insecurities she has of her appearance. In the other half of the video shows that she has done a cleft lip surgery and is crying perhaps, due to the pain from the stitch. She is seen to be rather close with the volunteer. As she sees herself in the camera, she is so happy that her cleft lip is gone and thinking that she looks gorgeous!

What were the non-verbal cues that she excludes out which enable us to interpret the video this way? From the beginning of this video, first of all, we notice her physical appearance and could denote that she has a cleft lip. Next, by the way she dress (objectics), we knows that she is a patient in that hospital. Third, through her body language, we can interpret that she is more comfortable with her pink friend and her bag. Moving on to the second part of the clip, straight away we notice the nicely stitched lip, with this we could conclude that she has done a cleft lip surgery. And judging by her swollen eyes, we knew that she was crying before the filming of the video perhaps due to the painfulness in her lip. Towards the end, looking at the distance she keeps (proxemics) and the interactions with the volunteer, we could tell that they are rather close to each other. Lastly, look at how she sees herself in the camera after the surgery. Her eyes shine and sparkled (oculesics) as she moves on to touch her face and wave happily admiring herself in the camera.

Even though, non-verbal communication can be subjective, I believed that in this clip, it is normative; whereby the cues are socially agreed upon on or culturally defined meanings. Just by interpreting these non-verbal cues allow us to get so much information on what the video is about.

Afterall, unspoken words speak louder than words. Don’t you agree?

PS: Before the operation, the girl was beautiful. After the operation, she become even more beautiful 🙂

Its everywhere: The use of technology.

As our technology progresses and advances, the use of IT gadgets and cyberspace have became part of our essential tools for communication. We often find ourselves engaging in all sorts of online social networking activities such as facebook, twitter, instant messaging, emails and blogs. Adding on to that, we are immersing in our smart phones, smsing or whatsapp-ing whenever we could; especially when we are bored.

In this article(http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/22/social-networking-cyber-scepticism-twitter), a rising number of academics say Twitter and Facebook don’t connect people – they isolate them from reality. One such academic, Turkle, views that technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world. However, defenders say theirs is just a different form of communication that people might have trouble getting used to. Also, the defenders pointed out that emails, Twitter and Facebook have led to more communication, not less – especially for people who may have trouble meeting in the real world because of great distance or social difference.

Both parties have different forms of perceptions toward this issue. Perhaps its how they have experience such communication through the society thus influence their selection in the perception process. In Turkle’s case, she had been at funerals where people checked their iPhones. Compared to the past, where people gathered in such event to have one last opportunity to view the deceased and say good-bye without engrossing in their phones. Such action contradicts with the normal script and is interpreted as disrespect for the dead and the immediate family by Turkle. Same goes for such contradicting actions of being occupied using the phones during a meal or a gathering; which beat the purpose of catching up where people are supposed to talk to each other. In which leads her to the perception of that technology is dominating our lives and make us less human.

On the other hand, one of the defenders, Kist noted that before everyone travelled on the bus or train with their heads buried in an iPad or a smart phone, they usually just travelled in silence. This is the normal script in the train where we did not see people spontaneously talking to strangers; we were just keeping to ourselves. Also, such technology as emails, Twitter and Facebook compared to mailing helps people to communicate better cross the world as one could get their message across to the other half of the world within seconds. From here, the defenders see the use of such technology does not contradict with the normal norm in our lives and also improves on it. Thus, leads to their perception that technology is a different form of communication which helps us communicates better.

Both sides have their own reasons; neither is wrong. However each side tend to oversimplificaton where they concentrates on a single aspect of the problem while disregarding others.

From my point of view, I agree with the defenders where such activities are considered as a form of communication. From social networking sites, we create conversations, events and get information about others (such as what is on their mind) and with those we make a respond. Thus, through the use of technology, we are communicating with each other non-verbally. I too, agreed with Turkle that technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Many of us are spending too much time on our gadgets and are over-doing it. As such, during a meal, none are talking to each other across the table and were engrossing in their own phones, have become something that freaks people out(including me). It feel like we are isolating each other in the real world.

Perphaps for some of us, sitting face to face with a computer/phone, feel safe and are able to express more freely than having a verbal face to face interaction. Granted there are others who are exceptions; being more expressive in the reality. However, the down side of such communication is that we could no longer see the other reactions when conversing; lack of the physical/human interactions. Many of such times, through the use of words and typos, we have to read within the lines to perceive how the other party felt. Sometimes this could lead to misunderstandings as people tend to perceive things differently.

The use of technology is a form of communication and is useful to a certain extend. Nevertheless, we should restrict the amount of time we spent on such online social networking and should hang out together more often.