The digital era has transformed the world into a global village – the post-modern world is a smaller place than ever before. People and corporations from different cultures and geographic regions of the word have become more connected through various digital technologies. However, cultural differences remain which still poses a significant challenge for multinational corporations (Shachaf, 2008). These MNCs have business interests spanning different parts of the world – this raises the need to ensure effective cross-cultural communication within a diverse workforce. Global corporations have long struggled with the challenge of managing multi-cultural teams – pooling human resource talent from across the world to work towards a common goal. With the growing prominence of globalization, effective management of cross-cultural team has become critical to establishing and maintaining a competitive advantage in the market (Uzun, 2014). However, information communication technologies have been useful in permitting cross-cultural communications and negotiations. Drastic technological advancements in recent times has produced new tools of information and communication technology (ICT) such as computers, smartphones, tablets, and software. Besides, the widespread use and penetration of the internet across the world has significantly influenced cross-cultural communications. This paper explores the influence of information and communication technology on cross-cultural communications and negotiations.
Dunn and Marinetti (2007) defines culture as “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes members of one group or category of people from another.” (p.255) Cross-cultural communication is concerned with the enhancing the communication between people, business partners, staff members, managers, and clients from different cultural backgrounds. Cultural differences pose several barriers that might lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding of the parties thus hindering a successful collaboration. Some of the common barriers include language barrier, stereotypical attitudes, difference in values and norms, lack of cross-cultural skills, and lack of knowledge on other cultures. However, cultural difference can also provide competitive advantage for multinational corporations. According to Uzun (2014), cross-cultural teams tend to be more efficient and productive than teams whose members belong to the same culture. Thus, multinationals have recognized the need to train their personnel on cross-cultural skills to enable the cope with various kinds of communication issues.
Information and communication technology has enabled people to become more accustomed to different cultures and languages. Social media and websites provides people with interactive platforms for learning more about different cultures through their mobile devices. With the unrestricted, seamless, and participative interactions, the modern generation has become more culturally competent. Before the advent of ICT technologies, such opportunities interactions between different cultures was limited to face-to-face meeting which were rare and expensive. Besides, the traditional communications channels required prior training programs to help people develop their cultural competence and cross-cultural skills. Information and communication technologies permit people from different cultures, languages, and geographic backgrounds to interact virtually, share ideas, and even participate in projects, discussions, and other activities. The digital world, thus, creates unique learning opportunities where people can become accustomed to other cultures even in absence of face-to-face meetings. Without information and communication technologies, people would be compelled to take training courses and face-to-face meetings to gain meaningful understanding of other cultures. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are free and accessible to all internet users which contributes to their effectiveness.
Information and communication helps in overcoming language barrier. Within the current era of rapid globalization, language barrier has proven a major obstacle for cross-cultural communication. A company from the United States negotiating a business deal with a counterpart from China will need to overcome the language barrier. The traditional solution to the problem has been hiring translators to help the executives from the two companies negotiate effectively. However, with rapid globalization, the demand for language services is growing at a remarkable rate – human translators cannot meet this massive demand. Information and communication technologies have enabled the development of translation applications that can be used in mobile devices. Some of the translation software application are so advanced integrating automated speech recognition and machine translation into a single platform (Lifintsev & Wellbrock, 2019). These capabilities permit real-time communication between people with different languages. Most online websites and social media platforms are now embedded with translation software to enable people translate posts, comments, and messages to their language of choice. Besides, translation technologies improve the productivity and efficiency of a human translator. These technologies help in overcoming language barrier permitting multilingual communication. Digital translation also helps people from different backgrounds to better understand each other and collaborate on various social and economic projects.
Moreover, information and communication technology simplifies cross-cultural communication making it more effective. According to O’brien, Alfano, & Magnusson (2007), digital communication technologies such as social media and other digital platforms make cross-communication easier than the traditional channels. Other than their obvious benefits such as accessibility and speed, digital communications are more impersonal. The impersonal aspect of
digital communication makes it immune to cultural peculiarities which are a common pitfall in face-to-face communications. Some of the cultural peculiarities as misinterpretation of gestures and body language can cause disagreements in face-to-face meetings. As such, face-to-face meetings require a strong set of cross-cultural skills to help avoid cultural peculiarities. However, such formalities are absent in digital communication (Larsen et al., 2014). There are no concerns about adhering to cultural customs and pleasantries such as shaking hands or tea ceremonies when texting or making online calls to a business partner from China. As a result of the absence of these barriers, people tend to more confident during cross-communication processes on digital platforms. Face-to-face meeting between people who do not share the same culture or language is often intimidating for both parties, information and communication technologies can help make it more comfortable. Therefore, it allows people to communicate and share ideas with relative ease.
Information and communication technologies have created new opportunities for learning new languages. There are ab wide range of digital educational materials online that allow people to learn foreign languages. Besides, there are mobile applications to help people acquire and improve their grasp of a new language through their mobile phones. Information and communication technologies have ushered in innovative educational approaches to foreign language learning and teaching that are superior to traditional methods (Lifintsev & Wellbrock, 2019). For instance, teachers of the different foreign languages have online classes which students can attend at their own time and convenience through smart devices. With the improved pedagogical possibilities that information and communication technologies have enabled, it now takes a short time to master a foreign language. Besides, the digital world allows the learners of a foreign language to interact and share their experiences – this makes the learning process more effective (Uzun, 2014). Traditionally, learners would face a difficult time practicing their language skills with other people who speak the foreign language especially when they live in communities that are not diverse. Research studies demonstrate the practicing a newly-learnt language with other speakers is critical to the effectiveness of the learning process. With digital technologies, even people who live in remote regions of the world can practice their linguistic skills with the help of social media and other technological tools.
Information and communication technologies create a virtual environment were cross-cultural communication thrives. The virtual environment is based internet and accessible to all users through their smart devices. ICT technologies have created vast virtual platforms with vibrant communities of users from diverse cultural backgrounds (Larsen et al., 2014). A significant benefit of these online platforms is that they permit synchronous interactions which are similar face-to-face meetings. Unlike text messages and calls which are less formal, virtual interactions can support official activities such as business meetings. Even though these platforms are free from most barriers that characterize face-to-face meetings, a certain level of communicative and cultural awareness is required to maintain respect and tolerance (O’brien, Alfano, & Magnusson, 2007). Computer-mediated communication is replacing the traditional face-to-face communications in most multinational corporations. However, the cultural motives still maintain a strong influence on individual and group behaviors in virtual platforms. Thus, there is need to maintain cultural competence in social media platforms to ensure effective communication. The virtual world also seems to be developing its own culture that is unique from traditional communication norms. For this reason, companies need to train their employees on the social media culture to ensure that its communication is effective.
In conclusion, information and communication technology has a remarkable influence on cross-cultural communication. Digital technologies allow people to get accustomed to different cultures and develop their knowledge on those cultures. Knowledge on different cultures is the basis for developing cross-cultural skills. Besides, ICT technologies have provided digital translation tools for overcoming language barrier to facilitate effective cross-cultural communication and negotiation. Information and communication technology also supports innovative educational tools for learning and teaching foreign languages. In a nutshell, information and communication technology has transformed cross-cultural communication making it more comfortable and effective.
Dunn, P., & Marinetti, A. (2007). Beyond localization: Effective learning strategies for cross-cultural e-learning. In Globalized e-learning cultural challenges (pp. 255-266). IGI Global. https://www.igi-global.com/chapter/globalized-learning-cultural-challenges/19305
Larsen, N., Bruselius-Jensen, M., Danielsen, D., Nyamai, R., Otiende, J., & Aagaard-Hansen, J. (2014). ICT-based, cross-cultural communication-a methodological perspective. International Journal of Education and Development using ICT, 10(1). https://www.learntechlib.org/p/147450/.
Lifintsev, D., & Wellbrock, W. (2019). Cross-cultural communication in the digital age. Estudos em Comunicação, 1(28), 93-104. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333576410_Cross-cultural_communication_in_the_digital_age
O’brien, A. J., Alfano, C., & Magnusson, E. (2007, April). Improving cross-cultural communication through collaborative technologies. In International Conference on Persuasive Technology (pp. 125-131). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-77006-0_17
Shachaf, P. (2008). Cultural diversity and information and communication technology impacts on global virtual teams: An exploratory study. Information & Management, 45(2), 131-142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.im.2007.12.003
Uzun, L. (2014). Utilising technology for intercultural communication in virtual environments and the role of English. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116, 2407-2411. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.01.583
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