Monthly Archives: June 2012

The issues from without: the West Side’s image

As an Urban Studies major, I feel as though I have done a decent amount of research of many of the neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities.  However, I was not as familiar with the West Side of St. Paul as I thought because the images I had of the area are the ones I’m going to preach against today. 

If there has been a driving thesis for the work that my group and I have constructed it is that the West Side of St. Paul is an enlightened neighborhood that understands its cultural significance, and it does not live up to the bad reputation that was thrust upon them. 

The historical background and the fact that it has been an immigrant enclave since it was incorporated by Ramsey Country created this bad reputation.  The tension between immigrant communities and many multi-generational “American” citizens has created a communication problem for many neighborhoods across the country.   The West Side is not an exception to this rhetoric.  An article that we read in class explained how immigrants in the current context are framed as pollutants,

“Images of large, unorganized groups of immigrants mirror the images of stationary pollution from the coverage of Love Canal in their visual framing and content. These visual constructions create an impression of immigrants as both stationary and mobile pollution.”  (Cisneros, 579)

I believe that this metaphor was reigning true for the West Side even before the immigrant “issue” was covered in the mainstream media.  The types of language used framing immigrants as pollutants could explain some of the historical intercultural communication issues that the West Side and the rest of the city has had for going on a century and a half.   Right from the beginning, this neighborhood was deemed as a place for “second class citizens” because it was housing large immigrant populations that could be viewed as “pollutants” to the rest of St. Paul.  They were given the area of the West Side to contain the “pollution” into the rest of the city of St. Paul and hoped to keep them as stationary as possible.

If this harmful imagery had been stopped years before, I believe that the West Side would be more accepted by other neighboring areas.  Unfortunately, many people see immigrants as less intelligent, worthy, or civilized than somebody born within the country. Even today, some of the residents feel the stigma associated with having an immigrant status.  As one of our interviewees, Kelly, explains:

“Most of the people that come here from other countries…they may not speak English but they probably speak five other languages and a lot of them were PhDs or…I mean, have Master’s in their own country and are very high up but then when they come here the degree doesn’t translate because the schooling is different. And so, they essentially have to start all over. Plus they don’t know the language. So a lot of people are like, “You’re stupid because you don’t know English,” when really, just because they don’t know English doesn’t mean that they’re stupid. But people don’t see beyond that. And we’re here to get the basic needs met and to give them a hand to have a better life.”

Kelly’s point about creating resources for the community brings me to another topic regarding this neighborhood which is a pillar.  There is a deep investment from within to make this a highly livable, safe, and respected community.  That almost sounds like a slogan for the Urban Renewal projects that tore up thousands of small communities within the United States in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but this far from that. 

The resources that are readily available to the citizens show a genuine investment in the well-being of the people and the hopes for keeping the authenticity of the neighborhood honest.  Although many of them cannot overcome the historical disinvestment that St. Paul has displayed towards the West Side, it is a huge leap in disabling some of those obstacles.  Such resources include the historic Neighborhood House, (which is where Kelly works), The West Side Community Organization, and the West Side Community Health Services.  

One of those very visible groups, The West Side Community Organization, states this is their mission:

“The West Side Community Organization (WSCO) is an action oriented, neighborhood-based organization empowering our residents to participate in and advocate for solutions to West Side community issues. Growing out of a movement in 1973 to save Humboldt High School, WSCO remains committed to its activist roots, using organizing and community economic development principles as a foundation for all of its work. The organization works to increase the civic participation of residents by initiating organizing campaigns, providing leadership development opportunities for youth and adults and by educating and building the power base of residents to tackle civic issue.”

I believe that the WSCO is trying to craft an empowered community to overcome the way the neighborhood is viewed from the outside world.   There is not enough intercultural communication occurring between the inside and outside worlds of the West Side yet, but I think creating a healthy self-image for the people that live there is one of the first steps towards opening this conversation up. 

Unfortunately, even with inspired organizations doing their best effort towards creating an engaged community, there is still a sense of shame for some based on the reputation of the area.  Rosa, another one of our interviewees, explains:

“When I was younger, I usually stayed in West Side and everyone I knew lived here so I never felt any shame. But now that I am working outside West Side and meeting new people, it is hard to be proud. Many times people refer to West Side as the ghetto, where there is a lot of violence and only poor people live. It sometimes makes me not want to tell people where I am from. I am afraid they will judge me as something I am not.”

Rosa’s insights prove that there are some identity issues between the avowed and ascribed roles.  The community sees itself as a vibrant, healthy, engaged area while the rest of the city has turned a cold shoulder to them and has written them off as “dangerous.”  This is a perspective that St. Paul, Minneapolis, and the surrounding suburbs perpetuate in their media coverage throughout.  Headlines such as “Uptick in Crime Brings St. Paul Police to City’s West Side” (KSTP) are part of the reason that many people view Rosa’s neighborhood as the “ghetto.” 

I found it interesting that the only time I was able to find positive headlines was when I really searched for them.  They were not readily available to me as I was researching.  If I had to dig for the positive articles, then how would anybody that wasn’t digging below the surface ever find out the good side?  It seems as though the identity issue is not an “issue” from the inside.  But rather, it is an issue that outsiders have with those from the community.  

The West Side has a lot of cityscape that makes it different.  It screams that it has an ethnic and cultural identity that it is proud of having and will not be silenced into forgetting where many of their families had come from.

I believe that this pride, although not intentionally, has created some obstacles towards intercultural communication.  I’ve stumbled upon this idea of using the art and cityscape as a form of protest.  This idea revolves around using creative work that shows a pride in one’s culture to show their oppressors that they cannot be silenced into submission.  I think this idea makes some people uncomfortable because it forces them to stop and analyze as to who the community members from the West Side protesting against.

 When people from other neighborhoods, cultural backgrounds, or ethnic identities look at this question, they may not like the answer.  Because of this, I think the conversation between the greater Twin Cities and the West Side may stay closed for quite some time.   These are the critical conversations that must occur if the ascribed and avowed roles are ever going to be remedied.   

With this, I urge anyone who has not gone to the West Side to do so.  The streets are beautiful, the people are welcoming, and the investment in community is evident.  The historical context has led to this terrible reputation that the West Side has not been able to shake.  I believe that if more people were willing to open their minds and cross into another culture, then maybe they’ll be able to exist without the negative image and the burden of having to prove themselves as a livable community.  It already is, and hopefully more people will see that in the future. 

Cisneros, David. “Contaminated Communities: The Metaphor of “Immigrants as Pollutants” in Media Representations of Immigrations.”  Rhetoric and Public Affairs.

Unknown, Rosa.  (5 June 2012). Personal Interview

Unknown, Kelly.  (25 May 2012). Personal Interview

“Uptick in Crime Brings St. Paul Police to City’s West Side.” KSTP.  Web 10 June 2012.

“West Side Community Organization.” WSCO. Web 10 June 2012.


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Final Reflection of Marcy Holmes

Over the last three weeks I have learned about how intercultural communication affects a lot of dynamics within a neighborhood and community. I have learned how the identity of the culture changes with time along with the power of the people in the neighborhood.


In this article, I will be reflecting on my experience of the culture in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood.


To fully understand intercultural communication within a neighborhood one must look at how the formation of the neighborhood and cities as site for cultural contestation and intercultural communication complicates or even nuances the understanding of the concept.


The formation of Marcy Holmes started with intercultural communication between the Native Americans who worshiped the St. Anthony Falls and white loggers who wanted to use the river as a business ( The communication was complicated and contested because each group wanted the land for the different reasons. Eventually the white settlers were able to gain control of the land and turned it onto an industrial neighborhood. Marcy Holmes was considered “the city’s of the neighborhood” according to ( The neighborhood had its main intercultural communication conflict when it was just starting to become a neighborhood. Now the main reason there is an intercultural communication contestation is due to the fact that the housing pricing is going up because of the amount of wealthy people are moving into the community.


To understand an area’s culture, one must look at the history, economic, and social aspects of that community. Looking at those three things will help a visitor understand the community much better when they are in the neighborhood.


Native Americans were the first people to settle in Marcy Holmes, then white settlers moved in around 150 years ago and started to develop the area ( The area became more developed as time went on because more opportunities arose from the influx of people settling there ( In fact, in 1850 the census recorded 656 people in the St. Anthony Falls area, the first business was opened in 1847, and the first school was opened in 1848 ( The area was obviously expanding at the time and becoming a place to start a life with a family. It was becoming an industrial area and mills were starting to pop up.


The culture of the area now has a lot to do with the things that were left behind from the past. Some of the buildings that were being used as mills are now apartment complexes. For instance, the Pillsbury A Mill is being reconstructed inside to become affordable apartment units (DuBois, 2012). Along the river many old buildings are being used for miscellaneous things such as Segway tours, apartments, and restaurants. The history of the old Marcy Holmes is extremely intertwined with the day to day life in modern Marcy Holmes. Everywhere you walk you run into something of historical value dating back to the beginning of the neighborhood.


The economic standing of Marcy Holmes consists of students as well as young affluent professionals. The students are quite poor and live in houses closer to the University of Minnesota where the rent is much cheaper than where the young crowd in the working world live. The young professionals are considered affluent and trendy according to many conversations that I have had with people around the area. Joseph, a man I talked with who is a resident of Marcy Holmes, stated, “The rent has been going up in the 12 years I have lived here due to the increase of younger and more affluent people moving into the neighborhood.”


The social aspect of Marcy Holmes is divided into two sections, students and young professionals, as I stated earlier. The students around the usually attend the University of Minnesota because it is affordable housing that is off campus. As a resident of Dinkytown and a student at the University of Minnesota, I enjoy the atmosphere of Marcy Holmes. I love how close it is to school as well as the cultural background that I run into on a regular basis. I go on runs around the neighborhood and find something new that I haven’t seen before. I personally love to run to the Stone Arch Bridge because there is an amazing view of the old factories and the Mississippi River.


Young professional’s social aspect of the area is quite broad. They live so close to downtown that they could easily walk to something going on across the river. There is the Guthrie, which is one of the most prestigious theaters in Minneapolis. There is a list of things to do on certain days in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood at such as, Ten Second Film Festival ( It is quite self explanatory, you make a Ten second film to show to an audience ( It is held at the Soap Factory, which is an old soap factory converted into “a laboratory for artistic experimentation and innovation” ( The young professional’s social aspect is quite artsy and trendy.


Now that you know about the history, economic, and social aspects of Marcy Holmes, I want to tell you about how culture influences communication within cities.


I believe that culture influences communication within cities because in every city there are different neighborhoods that have different cultures. Some neighborhoods are culturally similar and some are extremely different.


In Marcy Holmes the culture is “an urban entertainment scene by night, Marcy-Holmes is a welcome mix of old and new, traditional and trendy” ( Marcy Holmes attracts people who like the “traditional and trendy” culture and it influences communication. It influences communication because of the attractions. The attractions being things like the Ten Second Film Festival or a Frisbee Golf Tournament. The events going on in the community creates togetherness for people and influences people to communicate with each other. They are coming together for a common cause or event and it inspires communication within the city. These events are not limited to people only in the neighborhood of Marcy Holmes, making it a great way to open up communication to other people within the city of Minneapolis to experience the community’s culture. Culture influences more communication within Marcy Holmes because of the events that are put on around the neighborhood.


In conclusion, Marcy Holmes has had an extremely interesting past coming from the Native Americans to industrial neighborhood to now an artsy community of students and young affluent professionals. I learned that to fully understand a neighborhood one must recognize culture contestation and intercultural communication and comprehend the concept of it. I also learned about how the economic state, history of the area, and social aspect of the neighborhood effects who decides to live there and what type of culture they will have. According to Martin and Nakayama, “Cultural adaptation is a process by which individuals learn the rules and customs of new cultural contexts” (Martin & Nakayama, 2010). When people move into a new neighborhood then they need to learn the aspects of the culture and by me living here I understand the culture of the area and the social norms that go on. Understanding intercultural norms is a key factor to learning how to communicate with people who differ from yourself. You must understand someone elses culture to be able to effectively communicate with them. I feel I understand Marcy Holmes now that I know the history and understand the culture of the neighborhood.


DuBois, A. (2012, April 18). Pillsbury a mill to be converted into affordable housing. Minnesota Daily. Retrieved from


Martin, J., & Nakayama, T. (2010). Intercultural communication in contexts. New York: McGraw-Hill.



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The Cultural Puzzle

What does it take to understand culture? What aspects should we consider when talking about culture? Culture is a loose term, a term that I once thought only pertained to each specific race. However, culture can be thought of as in any given location. It could be a country, a city, a neighborhood, or even a building. And what determines the culture in an area is a complex combination of history, politics, power, and social interactions.

The history of the area can tell us a lot about what and why we see a certain culture in a given area. For example, Marcy-Holmes, a neighborhood in Minnesota, had a history of Native Americans until an explorer talked of how the area was beautiful. It soon became a sought after oasis, and colonization of white European-Americans in the 1800s ensued (Marcy-Holmes). That small glimpse into history gives us an understanding of how the area changed, drastically I might add.

The exampled history is just a piece of the puzzle though when it comes to history. The history of the area can influence other things like how the area is perceived, either by its own community or the outsides communities. Staying with the Minnesota examples, West Minneapolis is known by the outside community to be a place filled with crime. However, most of West Minneapolis’s community doesn’t see it that way. They view it as perfectly safe, a growing cultural paradise with a few rotten seeds.

But just to extrapolate further on history. History governs every area from a small neighborhood to an individual country to a continent to the world. The culture of each area can be studied through its own history, on whatever scale, and that alone will give a piece of the puzzle for the understanding of the culture in an area.

Another piece of the puzzle to understanding culture in an area is power. Power is an idea that determines how much voice, how much sway an individual or group may have on the population. Power could be determined by a number of things like money, education, race, political placement, etc. Anything that can possibly give a person power over others is power for that individual. But how does power play into the cultural identity of an area?

Judith Martin and Thomas Nakayama, writers of Intercultural Communication in Contexts, wrote:

“Power is the central dynamic in the writing of history. It influences the content of the history we know and the way it is delivered. Power dictates what is taught and what is silenced, what is available and what is erased.”

As you can see, power is closely linked to history in that the people that are in power determine the history of now and what will be told of from the past.

A significant time in history, in this country, is the ruling of Plessy versus Ferguson. The Supreme Court, in 1896, a bunch of judges with power, ruled that state sponsored segregation of public facilities was constitutional. The idea was “separate but equal.” This one instance in U.S. history started a cultural fire. It separated people based on race, which of course would have its own cultural implications.

Later on in 1954, the famous case of Brown versus the Board of Education ruled that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” And of course, this again started a cultural fire. I won’t go into the details because most of you reading this know these cases from history classes, but for those of you that don’t, I would suggest reading up on it. Anyway, this demonstrates how power can influence an area and in this case the power of the Supreme Court Justices influenced the entire United States.

Let’s talk about power on a smaller scale. During the late 1800s, Marcy-Holmes started to develop businesses along the Mississippi River in which the running the water was used to power the industry. The most famous business was the Pillsbury A-Mill. It turned the city of Minneapolis into the “flour capitol of the world” for over forty years. In this case, power was dictated by money, an economic status. Pillsbury had sway in the community because it was a source of mass revenue in the area. It has changed since the mill has closed down, but it is another example of how power can change over time in an area.

Another piece of this cultural puzzle is how social interactions and the differences between interactions of differing groups of people in a given area. Let us think about the differences in gratitude across cultures.  Park and Lee write:

“Although the use of a gratitude statement is universal, cultures can vary with regard to the types of behaviors and situational characteristics that elicit a gratitude statement and also the functions that the gratitude statement fulfills.” 

Saying “Thank You,” that simple statement, has just become complicated when you may be in a multidimensional community. When I would say thank you, and when a person of a different culture would say thank you can be similar in some situations, but largely different in others. But it is those differences, those idiosyncrasies that can change an area’s culture. In my opinion, it is those small differences, but also the large differences, that make traveling to different cultures all that more interesting. 

I have given hints throughout that culture is a puzzle. A puzzle with pieces that fit together in a specific and meaningful way. I have called it “The Cultural Puzzle.” I am sorry to tell you, I have lead you astray. Culture is more of an interlocking web of history, power, social interactions, and other aspects that can’t really be fully pulled apart from each other but never seem to be able to give the full picture. Understanding the culture of an area is complicated, but with more knowledge of the area, the more you will get out of the culture of that area. Peter S. Alder once wrote: 

“Increasing interaction across interpersonal, social, ethnic, national, and cultural barriers necessitates new understandings of the dynamics, the problems, and the implications of cross-cultural experiences.”


Works Cited:

Adler, P. S. “The Transitional Experience: An Alternative View of Culture Shock.” The Journal of humanistic psychology 15.4 (1975): 13. Web.

“Cultural Differences in “Thank You”.” Journal of language and social psychology 31.2 (2012): 138. Web.


Martin, Judith N., and Nakayama, Thomas K. Intercultural Communication In Contexts. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.: New York, 2010. (p. 128).

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The Final Take Away From An Inspired Student

After studying the Seward neighborhood for the entire semester, I have come to better understand what impact culture, status, social, and economics had on a particular neighborhood. This course has made me a better student and person for opening my eyes to the reality taking place around me.

Intercultural Communication

To better understand communication between cultures, we should first define intercultural communication.

According to Buffalo State, intercultural communication is defined as, “communication, and the study of it, among peoples of different cultural, ethnic and tribal backgrounds. Because of the inherent differences between the message sender/encoder and the message receiver/decoder, the risk of misunderstanding is particularly high in intercultural situations.”

As I have continuously spoken about the communication between the community members of Seward being very positive, despite the variety of cultures, this allows me to understand intercultural communication in a much different way.

Growing up in a small town that was honestly 100% white, my views of other races and cultures were formed by television and movie portrayals, due to the lack of diversity in the town.

We spoke often about how we understood other races to be and why we formed these conclusions. Many others came from very similar situations and I, and contributed this to simply hearing stories or stereotypes and not actually socializing with different cultures.

Other venues, such as Disney movies plug inaccurate stereotypes into young children’s minds without knowing that this information is not true. This allows them to form their own views early on, possibly taking away their rights to make their own opinions by interacting with different races.

A video documentary we viewed in class provided many examples as to what videos are doing this. Another video I have watched is a YouTube video featuring different character portrayal and the voices used. Take a look for yourselves.

The reason why I am saying this is because I want to attribute the back and forth views of culture to how we are raised and bringing the inaccuracy, in many cases, to the attention of readers.

Having said this, I feel that the vast variety of culture and race in Seward has allowed the community members to better understand each other, rather than forming stereotypes about their neighbors. But if members of surrounding neighborhoods or even people like me that live in the suburbs and have heard certain things without actually visiting the area, we often being to believe the things that we have formed. Because of this, we then begin to feel as though we have too many differences from one another and do not feel as though they can communication with each other.

How are we suppose to understand how to communicate with other cultures when we feel as though we cannot even relate to them?

History and Now

I think we can all agree that history very much shapes where we are today. This is very much true for neighborhoods in the Twin Cities, including Seward. Seward was built up from immigrants and is still being populated by many of those cultures. I believe the history of Seward to be the reason why it is viewed by other communities, because people understand that it may have areas that are low income or cultures that do not have the best of reputations, but because it has been like this for so long but continues to thrive and is a positive part of the cities, we see it in a much different way than we normally would.

Everyone is human and will make their assumptions about others different or even similar to them, and much of this is related to how others view them, what their interests are, where they came from, ect. We are creatures of habit and are attracted to those like ourselves, so when we view people that go against that, we believe to form that barrier that does not allow us to speak in normalcy to them.

I think we can all relate to this; when a friend tells us that a town is full of “ghetto” people (just an example!), that is instantly imprinted into our thoughts and we forever view it this way until we are thoroughly convinced differently.

We often find it hard to adapt to new and unfamiliar things, so for many people who are not familiar with a certain culture, we will hold on to that created stereotype often for a very long time.

My Take Away

From this course, I have learned that many of us have unfairly and inaccurately form stereotypes about other cultures and have not allowed ourselves to go out of our comfort and get to know the reality of different cultures. Talk to people, be open and understand, because even though they may be different in some aspects, much of the time, they are more like us than we even realize. I have found myself that I have done this and I now have the intention to spark conversations in unfamiliar territories.

(n.d.). Intercultural communication. Retrieved from Communication/Unit5.pdf

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Communicating Across Cultures: My Final Reflection

My understanding of intercultural communications has grown over the past three weeks. Examining its function in a settled and diverse neighborhood allowed me to see the true effects of intercultural communications as well as the barriers that can prevent it. Looking at a neighborhood in the context of a cultural site, forced me to see neighborhoods as more than just locations but as identities.

To be honest, when I began this Intercultural communication class I thought that I would learn about how different cultures, i.e. races, communicated. But over the past three weeks, I have discovered that culture is determined by so much more than just your race, such as gender, skin color, sexual orientation, family history, among so many other things. Your culture is shaped by your personal context, by whom you are in relation to everyone around you.

That is why looking at neighborhoods during this class was so interesting to me. By seeing the history and context of the neighborhood, you can better understand the relationships everyone living there has and then how they communicate with each other and the rest of the city.

When we began looking at the West Side neighborhood, I only saw what was in the news or articles written about it. Personally I had grown up in Minneapolis, and I had never even known West Side existed. Initially I was worried because it seemed to have a really bad reputation based on the articles I found. I was worried it would be hard to visit or dangerous.

But then I read about their diversity and their ever fluctuating residency and I began to understand why the greater Twin Cities area was almost afraid to explore an area like West Side. It was because it was an unknown area, a widely diverse and different neighborhood where many different races lived and therefore many different cultures meshed together. In a sense, West Side looked like the island of misfit toys, a group of different cultures and races, coming together and unifying over their common characteristic. The residents of West Side were primarily new immigrants and upon arrival, they didn’t really fit in anywhere else.

When you think about a neighborhood, that’s really all it is: A group of different people, unified by one common characteristic. For the West Side, they were united by their differences, their unique cultural nuances which set them apart from the rest of the city. The neighborhood of West Side gave them a place to settle and grow and even share their cultures with one another.

Context can play a large role in the development of a neighborhood and the residents within it. The image that is projected in the media and among the rest of the city can greatly affect the personal image of individual residents within the neighborhood. This can be explicitly seen in Rosa, the young girl we interviewed in West Side, who spoke about her experiences with the bad reputation of her neighborhood.

 “When I was younger, I usually stayed in West Side and everyone I knew lived here so I never felt any shame. But now that I am working outside West Side and meeting new people, it is hard to be proud. Many times people refer to West Side as the ghetto, where there is a lot of violence and only poor people live. It sometimes makes me not want to tell people where I am from. I am afraid they will judge me as something I am not.”

This excerpt shows how detrimental a neighborhoods social and political context can be to its identity. As Rosa discussed, it is easy to be proud of your neighborhood when you are in it because everyone there is similar is someway and therefore isn’t judging each other. But as you venture into the city, people will judge you for being from a certain place or place unjustified stereotypes on you due to their perceptions of your home. This happens a lot, especially in a city with so much diversity and so many socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods. Simple things like which side of the highway or river you live on can make a difference in how people perceive you and ultimately how you perceive yourself.

Space and boundaries are incredible influential in the creation of identities and the power dynamic within and between neighborhoods. Specifically for West Side, the river serves as a physical representation of the divide between St.Paul and West Side. While West Side is part of St.Paul, you wouldn’t know it if you stood in either location. One bridge connects the two areas and there isn’t much to draw people out of downtown St.Paul and into the culturally diverse neighborhood of West Side. Even with in West Side there are physical barriers in the form of the bluffs that divide the neighborhood into two areas, usually representing the rich and the poor.

The latter example of physical barriers is greatly influenced by the historical significance of the bluffs when the area was first settled. The richer immigrants were the only people who could afford to build houses on higher land, avoiding the damaging flooding that flagged the area every spring ruining the low lying houses (Historic Saint Paul). The power dynamic created many years ago is still present in the area and effects many areas of this neighborhood.

In the past, those who lived near each other in West Side had a sense of unity, a common thread which united the different ethnic groups and allowed them to come together and successfully integrate. Even now, like our first interviewee discussed, the Neighborhood house facilitates these interactions by offering English classes and cooking nights, in which “they’re all intermingled and they try to get them to know each other’s culture well.” They are able to share their cultures with those around them, which helps individuals feel proud of their backgrounds and also allows each person to share a little bit of who they are.

The biggest concern when examining these concepts (culture, context, identity and power) is how they affect each other and shape the intercultural interactions we see every day.

While we can see that culture is shaped by these four concepts, it isn’t as clear as to how it changes the way we communicate with each other. We found through our historical background research that the history of a neighborhood and its residents greatly affects the relationships they have within the neighborhood and how they see individual ethnic groups. Looking at the contemporary context of our neighborhoods showed us the importance of media in the shaping of neighborhood images and identities. Analyzing the roles of identity and power in relation to our neighborhoods pushed us to connect the two ideas and see how they are in fact related.

Over all, I thought that culture is formed by both your avowed and ascribed identities but also your neighborhood itself. This personal perception changes the way in which you see the world and therefore the way you see others around you. I have found that intercultural communications doesn’t just include communicating with other ethnic groups, its communicating with those that are different from yourself. Those differences can be big or small, ranging from skin color and language differences to simply what side of the road you live on. Everyone is shaped by small parts of their lives, creating individual identities and changing how we can communicate with others.

The goal is to determine the best way for you to personally communicate with the world around you, and to remember that everyone is different and that is ok.


“Census Facts.” Wilder Research Center. Web. 25 May 2012. 

“Historic Saint Paul.” Tour Saint Paul: West Side. 01 June 2006. Web. 25 May 2012.

“RCHS.” Profile of Saint Paul’s Historic West Side Neighborhood. Ramsey County Historical Society. Web. 25 May 2012. .

Interview with Rosa:

Interview with Kelly:


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Final Reflection

I found a good description, I prefer not to say “definition” since it is too serious, on the website.

Intercultural communication can be defined as any interpersonal interaction between persons belonging to different cultural or social groups, which differ from one another because of diverse backgrounds, communication and linguistic behaviors, communication interpretations, word meanings, and communication styles. Intercultural communication interactions include both verbal and nonverbal messages. Intercultural communication is dynamic because the process is always changing and evolving. This means one must continually improve and update intercultural communication skills and cultural knowledge.

Neighborhood is surely a place for intercultural communication. In some community which contains many immigrants from different cultural backgrounds, people are facing intercultural communication everyday.

         Context is important to understanding culture. Context is a basis of identity and power. It influences the community most. Power and context are important force to shape the community culture. Context is the basis of the community culture. Power and identity affects how it develops. For example, in the Phillips Community, we can find buildings of different architectural styles; we can find houses with different decorations. Although the residents of the Phillips Community mainly were white people, the community is not like a normal white community. It has three churches, in which one is Spanish church, one is Italian church and one is Indian church. From the website of the Oregon State University, I found:

Contexts of communication are best thought of as a way to focus on certain communication processes and effects. Communication context boundaries are fluid. Thus, we can see interpersonal and group communication in organizations. Gender communication occurs whenever people of different sexes communicate. We can have mass communications to individuals, group, and organizations.

                      Using communication contexts as a means to help us study communication helps us out of problems some people associate with the intrapersonal context (some say the “so-called” intrapersonal context). Some people facetiously say intrapersonal communication exists when someone talks to themselves. It’s more accurate to define intrapersonal communication as thinking. While thinking normally falls within the purview of psychology we can recognize that we often think, plan, contemplate, and strategize about communication past, present, and future. It is legitimate to study the cognitive aspects of communication processes. So, even if some people call those cognitive aspects of communication thinking, it can be helpful to allow the context of intrapersonal communication to exist, thereby legitimating an avenue of communication research.

From quotations above, we draw a conclusion that context is an extremely important factor which has a huge influence on communication.

         Cultural spaces define the boundary of a community. Every community has its own cultural space. I don’t think it will be a good idea to take the community and cultural space separately since they are so closely related. In addition, we can not talk about and understand cultural space if we take it away from the background. I found an interesting article about cultural space. Here is some abstraction:

 In both the German and US literature on ethnic neighbourhoods, there is considerable debate as to whether living amongst co-ethnics hinders or furthers the integration process for immigrants. Using the detailed data on immigrant integration in the German Socio-economic Panel in combination with zip-code-level data on minority concentration and neighbourhood income levels, the research tests the extent to which ethnic neighbourhoods are economically, socially and/or culturally isolated spaces in Germany. The findings indicate that, although general neighbourhood quality is lower for minorities living within ethnic neighbourhoods, these persons are no more culturally isolated from Germans than their counterparts living outside these areas. Further, minorities living within ethnic neighbourhoods appear no more likely to maintain ties to their country of origin culture than those living outside ethnic neighbourhoods. This suggests that the correlation between social and spatial integration, assumed in much of the immigrant integration literature, requires more careful scrutiny.

From the abstraction above, we can easily see that there actually exist many different cultural spaces. But they are not independent. The cultural spaces of different cultural backgrounds can make up a brand new cultural space, which is a composition of various cultures but with a same core culture.

         Culture gives the biggest influence on communication. In Tracy Novinger’s article, she gave out a clear explanation of this influence:

 Communication specialists estimate that some two-thirds to three-fourths of our communication takes place nonverbally through behavior. Behavior itself is learned from our culture and all behavior communicates. Since we cannot stop behaving in one way or another, we cannot stop communicating. Therefore, during all of the waking hours that we spend with other human beings we “speak” volumes through the behavior our culture drilled into us. In addition, it is certainly possible to learn the most significant rules for behavior prescribed by a foreign culture so that we ourselves can communicate more effectively, as well as better interpret what someone is trying to communicate to us.

We always say that culture shapes communication. Communication is easier for people who are with the same cultural background. In the article Culture and Communication – The Relationship Between Communication and Culture, Characteristics of Culture, Glimpses of Culture, the author describes the relationship between culture and communication.

The relationship between communication and culture is a very complex and intimate one. First, cultures are created through communication; that is, communication is the means of human interaction through which cultural characteristics— whether customs, roles, rules, rituals, laws, or other patterns—are created and shared. It is not so much that individuals set out to create a culture when they interact in relationships, groups, organizations, or societies, but rather that cultures are a natural by-product of social interaction. In a sense, cultures are the “residue” of social communication. Without communication and communication media, it would be impossible to preserve and pass along cultural characteristics from one place and time to another. One can say, therefore, that culture is created, shaped, transmitted, and learned through communication. The reverse is also the case; that is, communication practices are largely created, shaped, and transmitted by culture.

To understand the implications of this communication-culture relationship, it is necessary to think in terms of ongoing communication processes rather than a single communication event. For example, when a three-person group first meets, the members bring with them individual thought and behavioral patterns from previous communication experiences and from other cultures of which they are, or have been, a part. As individuals start to engage in communication with the other members of this new group, they begin to create a set of shared experiences and ways of talking about them. If the group continues to interact, a set of distinguishing history, patterns, customs, and rituals will evolve. Some of these cultural characteristics would be quite obvious and tangible, such that a new person joining the group would encounter ongoing cultural “rules” to which they would learn to conform through communication. New members would in turn influence the group culture in small, and sometimes large, ways as they become a part of it. In a reciprocal fashion, this reshaped culture shapes the communication practices of current and future group members. This is true with any culture; communication shapes culture, and culture shapes communication.

 I think culture may have a great influence on individuals. People are not born but educated to be who they are. If one’s brought up in a certain culture, he will not be able to get rid of the influence of that. The way in which we thinking, talking and behaving is affected a lot by the culture.

         Overall, intercultural communication is affected by cultures, contexts, identities, power. It is easy to feel the relationship between them but hard to define what the relationship is exactly. Anyway, we can understand it by observation. That helps us to do research on this respect.



Oregon State University:

Intercommunication Blog:

Sage Journals:

Online Encyclopedia:


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Power: Summit- University neighborhood

Power is an import force that influences the interaction, communication, and existence of every community. It is often hidden, but dynamic and it is always changing.  The power dictates what history to be told how to be told and who will tell it. Power also determines what to be taught at school, what language will be taught or spoken in a particular community. Power sets and defines the rules and the laws.

But the degree, in which this power is exercised, is different for every community and within any community. This power difference could exist at ethnic, race, gender, and socioeconomic, or age levels and it always creates dominants, those who have the power and control, and sub-ordinates, the less powered ones.  As martin and Nakayama ,the authors of a book called “Intercultural communication In Context” stated, the dominant try to remain their power whatever it takes, the subordinates try to challenge this power (martin and Nakayama 1997).

As every community, the Summit-University neighborhood, the 8th district in St. Paul, Minnesota, is influenced the power (www.mnhs.or). Through the history and culture, we can understand the power dynamics of this community.   The power, culture and history go hand by hand and influence each other.  In early 1850, the majority of the people who settled in this neighborhood European immigrants, thus the most dominant community that existed at that time were Caucasians (  Since they were the dominant ethics at this neighborhood, they were the ones that had the dominant culture and the power.   Since the power dictates almost every aspect of the community, the official language spoken in this community also became the English language.

As we mention earlier, power and identity also coexisted. Thus, not all white people had power, but because of their gender differences, the white men also had power over the white women.  The power difference of this community can be seen their ways of life, for example the houses they were lived. Today some of these houses are still standing and became some historical sites (Minnesota Historical Society).

As we also look at the contemporary live of this community, we can see how the white people still have some the power although it is changing.  The white women are getting more power than ever.    As we mention earlier, the power is dynamic and changing.  There were two factors that were driving this change.  One was the immigration flow. The other one was that the      sub-ordinates were challenging the power.

In late 1900, there were many different immigrants that were settled in this neighborhood such us Asians, and recent ones are East Africans. These new ethnic groups brought their culture and languages with them. Since the diversity of this neighborhood increased, the challenge of the dominant power also increased.

Today, the Caucasians still are dominant and powerful ones in this neighborhood.  This explains what we observe during our visit of this neighborhood.  The people that we saw in the east of this neighborhood were white, and live in big houses (mansions) with different styles.  And the people we mostly saw in the western part were people of color and live in small and old houses. As the census on 2000 indicated, the 40% of the community live there are white the minority groups.

The power and socioeconomics also influence each other.  The most minorities that live in this community are low income  and immigrant  and  Few of them are working classes. Thus, they tend to have less involvement with government and political positions.  While the upper and working class and upper calls people tend to have power and they are the ones who control the political. The quality of the schools also depend the amount of the tax that the particular community pays. The schools that are located in the low income community are given less funding while the schools that located in upper and middle classes are well funded.  This has some ting to do whit the power and socioeconomic

Power also determines what to be taught at school and what languages are used.  Although that there are so many diverse language in this community, the English language is the official language that are taught at schools spoken at government offices.  In summary, we can say that the power is dynamic and it is changing due to the increasing diversity of the community, and power challenges from minority and sub-ordinates.


  1. Ramsey Hill Association.
  2.  Summit University planning Council.
  3. Minnesota historical
  4. Martin and Nakayama. “Intercultural communication In Context” 1997.pages 110-133

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