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Seminar examines affect in cross-cultural dissemination


2024-01-19 01:58

Duan Danjie
Chinese Social Sciences Today


The 12th International Conference on Intercultural Communication under the theme of “Emotional Communities in Intercultural Communication in the Age of Digital Communication” took place in Wuhan, Hubei Province, on December 9. Participating experts and scholars engaged in dialogues on topics such as the concepts of affect and emotion, the formation of emotional communities, emotional conflict and resolution in cross-cultural communication, the impact of digital technology on inter-cultural emotional communication, and the issue of empathy in China’s external dissemination.

Affective concepts

Affective studies have grown rapidly at home and abroad in recent years. However, whether there is an emotional community in cross-cultural communication and how to employ basic concepts such as affect, emotion, and sense have yet to reach consensus, said Zhou Shuhua, former president of the Chinese Communication Association (CCA). Research on the construction of emotional communities in cross-cultural communication enables people to live in an empathic world and better understand mutual differences.

In an era of de-globalization, the absence of trust relationships has resulted in a surge of exclusive self-centered emotions, said Shan Bo, a professor from the School of Journalism and Communication at Wuhan University (WHU). This underscores the urgent need for academic reflection on rebuilding emotional communities to open a new path for cross-cultural transmission in the era of digital communication.

If the concept of an emotional community exists, the key issue to address is how to maintain collective emotions within that community, noted Jens Allwood, a professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Allwood further highlighted the necessity of clarifying the relationship between the general emotions of individuals and collective emotions. Positive emotions sustained by the community can provide the conditions for cross-cultural communication and collaboration.

“At present, ‘emotional community’ is chiefly applied as a strategic concept in cross-cultural communication,” said Ji Li, a professor from the School of Journalism and Communication at WHU. This academic research path has its shortcomings, as it fails to establish the conceptual validity of emotional community based on historical and real-world contexts.

Participants also elaborated upon the concept of emotional community from the perspectives of interculturality and the “community of feelings” in the digital age. Wang Jinli, a professor from the School of Communication at Fujian Normal University, emphasized that the key to interculturality is to acknowledge the heterogeneity of different cultures. In cross-cultural communication, intercultural thinking can trigger the affective instinct of human beings to accept diversity, effectively dissolving the conscious rejection of others through shared emotional mechanisms, creating a sense of shared meaning among individuals or groups.

Yuan Guangfeng, a professor from the School of Journalism and Communication at Nanjing University, believes that the subject of affect emerges in the tangible digital space, connecting individuals into collectives by dint of linguistic and symbolic systems. This calls for greater attention to the national communities formed by feelings and emotions in the study of emotional communities.

Emotional communication

In response to the widespread influence of social media, scholars at the conference examined the emotional dynamics of various subjects. Considering the emergence of the “companion economy” and the “audio economy,” Jiang Ling, an associate professor from the School of Media and Communication at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, investigated ethical issues surrounding emotional empathy in audio broadcasts, which contain a wealth of empathetic values. The governance of emotional empathy in audio broadcasts calls for introducing a legal governance system for audio platforms and strictly obeying legal and ethical bottom lines, with platforms and anchors conscientiously upholding moral principles.

As the connection between empathy and communication is extended in virtual space, it also continues and transcends social relations due to the infinite openness of virtual space, demonstrating characteristics approaching spatial justice, added Xin Jing, an associate professor from the School of Journalism and Communication at Central China Normal University.

Tang Jiamei, a professor from the School of Journalism and Communication at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, has discovered that expatriates utilize the simultaneous construction of multiple spaces in physical and virtual realms to aid in their cross-cultural social and psychological adaptation, thereby mitigating negative emotions. New media is embedded in this process and becomes a subsystem of cross-cultural adaptation and maintaining emotional communities.

Empathetic research

The topic of empathy has inspired discussions within cultural circles on how to effectively tell Chinese stories in the new era. Wang Yuan, an associate professor from the School of Journalism and Communication at Sichuan International Studies University, proposed that the international communication practice of Chinese discourse has shifted towards interpreting the involvement of communities with diverse interpretive goals, strategies, and meanings.

Liu Jihong, an associate professor in the School of Media Science at Northeast Normal University, suggested fostering cross-cultural understanding by cultivating intimacy, increasing emotional awareness, and building trust based on his research on the cross-cultural empathy strategies of China’s international aid.

Ye Wang, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the United States, revealed the possibility of using natural language processing (NLP) models in cross-cultural communication research. Cutting-edge NLP technology has opened the door to vector space, which is expected to venture into uncharted territory and deepen the understanding of cross-cultural complexity.

The conference was hosted by the Center for Studies of Media Development and the School of Journalism and Communication at WHU.



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