Culture: Analyse Detail or Look for Patterns?

In the latest reflection, we refer to an octopus as the poster child of culture. An octopus can worm itself into very small spaces and stick its tentacles into almost anything. Each tentacle also has its own brain. Like an octopus, culture is a multi-tentacle concept that seems to be present everywhere. Culture is also similar to an octopus in that, if a tentacle is lost, it can regrow a new one.

Attempting to understand culture by studying its details or tentacles usually only succeeds in highlighting truly convoluted causes and effects. Usually, it becomes almost impossible to identify these causes and their effects.

When studying culture one cannot adopt a reductive thinking – focussing more on detail - process. One needs to take a step back and objectively review it through inductive – holistic - reasoning. One needs to look for patterns and relationships, such as seeing that an octopus has nine tentacles but then considering the similarities and differences between them. The research needs to consider what drives octopus tentacles and even how they work independently, yet collectively. One must consider the total octopus and attempt to understand what makes an octopus an octopus.

In this reflection, we discuss two concepts namely processes and systems. To understand culture it is imperative to adopt a systems – inductive – perspective and not a process – reductive – perspective.

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