Webs of Culture: Applying InterculturalCommunication Theory to Understand Distributed Decision-Making Processes

  •  Norhayati Zakaria    
  •  Derrick Cogburn    


The overarching research question in this paper is: What is the influence of high-versus-low context cultural orientations on effective participation in globally distributed collaboration using email? Two subsidiary research questions follow: (1) What discernable patterns of cultural variation are evident in the email messages, and (2)



What is the effect of cultural variation on the contribution of Civil Society during the following stages of the decision-making process: (a) problem identification, (b) proposal making and generation of ideas, (c) response to ideas and deliberation, and (d) solution. To answer these questions, we will apply Edward Hall’s (1976) intercultural communication theory as the primary lens. Specifically, we will employ a cultural dimension called “context” which explains the variations in terms of high-context-versus-low context. Other literature in this domain will also be used to explore the various aspects of cultural impacts.

The main objective of this paper is to propose a research design that uses content analysis to look at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) public archival email messages. From this source material, we will apply intercultural communication theory in order to provide descriptive statistical analysis and in-depth descriptions for each of the decision-making stages described above, from a cultural stance. At the completion of this study, we hope to be able to demonstrate specific impacts that high context and low context cultural backgrounds have on globally distributed collaboration, and to suggest some fertile areas for future research such as how to minimize the different cultures’ drawbacks and maximize their positive advantages to facilitate globally distributed collaboration.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.