Structure of Culture [Theory]
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been studying the nature and make-up of cultures (and how they compare to cults. I think they’re the same, just with different, usually trivial, societal connotations) and I’ve built this first draft/outline of what a culture is and what binds it all together.
My thesis is that culture is a programmable way of life; a sort of mental operating system for subscribers of that particular culture. Cultures are an integral part of humanity, but considering the typical blind faith we place in a culture that we are born associated with, a culture can be used as a weapon or as a tool. In a future post, we’ll explore the dangers of inheriting a set of ideas [a culture].
To come up with the structure pictured above, I asked the question, “How does one push updates to the world’s mental operating system [culture]?”
Referencing other models of culture and breaking down cultures in my own life (such as hip-hop), I came up with 6 primary “areas of influence” that move the needle within a culture.
Mind - This is the area that contains the overarching ideas & attitudes a culture has towards themselves, life, and the world. For example, my personal Code of Conduct, relationships with innovation/technology, and consumerism & individualism in America.
Exposure - Exposure is the media & knowledge we are regularly exposed to [TV, Social Media, Music, Literature, Research / Studies, Origin stories within a culture].
TikTok’s algorithm in the USA pushes entertainment & humor first and foremost while in China, the audience is exposed to more science & technology education. This can be seen as China’s attempt to “push updates” to both US and Chinese cultures, or a reflection of the already existing cultures within Tik Tok’s demographic.
Practices - Also called rituals, customs, or traditions, the practices a culture engages in are very revealing of their MIND and what they are EXPOSED to. Practices may include social gatherings, fitness habits, dances, work-life balance, places they visit (church, bars, museums), and mantras or popular sayings.
Artifacts - Artifacts are the physical items [products] or symbols that members of a culture use to signal their association with a culture. This idea is perfectly captured by the popular “Starter Pack” memes that highlight the common possessions that signify someone is part of a particular culture or subculture. Logos and food would also be aspects that fall under this area of influence.
Actors - Actors are essentially the figureheads or human embodiments of what a culture consists of and is influenced by. In the Renaissance period, Leonardo Da Vinci would have been a very key actor in the cultural shift the time was marked by. In hip-hop, we see key actors like Tupac, Biggie, Kanye West, & Drake impacting the culture.
Aesthetics - On the final ring of my model we have aesthetics. This consists of the artistic and design tastes of a culture. This area of influence is usually demonstrated by proxy through all the other areas. A culture’s aesthetics can be seen in its clothing & product design [Artifacts], media [Exposure], and beauty standards [Actors], but is most obviously seen in its art and architecture. Notice how decidedly different most hip hop album covers are from country music album covers or the dramatic contrast between typical architecture in Japan or Dubai vs the Victorian Era (whose architectural style I have despised since I became self-aware as a child). Aesthetics tend to be the most malleable area of influence a culture relies on.