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Erik Champion

Are you talking more about "work culture" than material culture? I see culture more as the material self-expression and attempt to carry on through material form the values and beliefs of social systems, ie it is the output and atmosphere and records of a society, while your 1-4 seems to me to be more social systems per se. Perhaps our diverging interpretations is due to our different fields?

Ron Meiners

I can certainly see the validity in both perspectives... and, just to clarify, my background is as a practitioner, having evolved this understanding primarily from what I see happening in the communities I've worked with and been a member of (primarily in an online setting). And yes, I'm using the term to refer to the whole cloth, and primarily as a process... the activity of defining and refining and taking or creating our place in a social entity, which certainly includes the meaningful expressions in that context, or even more, primarily revolves around meaningful expressions of the cultural context. I want to include the process of the evolution of the values and beliefs and their expression, or even more, I want to emphasize how dynamic that process is... The forms of culture in the last few hundred years have made it seem, at least to Western eyes, to be a static construct, and I think the online social experience is both emphasizing and expanding the underlying basis of these expressions as a dynamic activity, something we all engage in on a minute by minute basis, even if in most contexts those activities are so consistent with previous ones as to make the whole thing look immutable. But I think that's an illusion. Given the right circumstances (ie., a new and compelling cultural context), people will adopt new cultural values quite quickly, and sometimes permanently.

And that in turn indicates how strongly we consistently adhere to the cultural messages we're embracing, even if those cultural messages in turn embrace creativity and experimentation (again, enhanced in online experiences). It looks permanent, or semi-permanent, because we tend to cling to these messages so fiercely.

And I think the cap to all this is that the cultural play we're seeing online, the experimentation and cross-connection, is establishing cultural relativity, or the multiplicity and flexibility of social identity, as core concepts of our social identities. That to me is really exciting, opening up all sorts of connective flexibility that used to be a lot more difficult.

Thanks for your feedback by the way... great comments. And there are a couple of pieces of this I really want to expand upon, which hopefully will happen in the next week or so. Please let me know what you think.


Hello have you written more on this? In IJRP issue 1 I wrote on Oblivion as a cultural world and some psychologists and I are now tackling how virtual worlds could be compared using criteria extracted from that paper.

I would suggest that culture as material (which supports hopes dreams goals etc) and culture as system (social system) may differ and be better served by different terms.

Ron Meiners

Interesting notion, and I'll look for the paper (is it online?). I need to write more about this but have been unable to get to it of late. But the idea of separating out the two functions certainly makes sense, though I think they're also "inextricably" bound as well, mutually interacting at least in many ways. The conceptual, as it were, legitimatizes the functional, and vice versa. Thanks for the post!

PS thought: would you be up for doing a guest blog post here on the topic? An intro and link to the paper or something similar?


hello to the first question, see http://journalofroleplaying.org/
to the second, sure, but not for a month or so!
Looking forward to more ruminations, Erik


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