In “Culture Shock,” Michael Agar talks about “culture as a system of frames,” essentially equivalent to a structural mode of operation that allows you to function in a new situation (country/religion/multimedia journalism institute). I’ve experienced a lot of different “rich moments” (also Agar’s phrase) in my attempts at intercultural communication. But what I’ve noticed about all of them is that they were all shaped by the manner in which I approached them—as a journalist, a photographer, a violinist, or just a girl on the streets of Urbino. In Viewfinder, I wrote about the way in which my camera “shaped my interaction with the party,” and in my blogs about the early music festival (Playing with Guts and Signs of a Passionate Player) how my violin shaped my understanding and interactions with the other musicians.
I think that culture is not defined by specific nations or other groups, but rather by the point of view from which any group is approached. I have felt part of many different cultures during this trip. One of the most foreign cultures to me was actually that of journalism, something nearly everyone else in the program had been involved with for years. Introducing myself in Italian as a giornalista was unnatural at first, but once I got used to the point of view, it was both foreign and fascinating. Walking into the Early Music Festival felt like coming back to the music culture I’d gotten to know through Interlochen and Encore. And of course, being in Italy as an American has shaped every experience I’ve had.
Being a part of all these different cultures, and seeing the same people from so many different points of view, has made me think about culture as a much more dynamic idea. Merely by looking at something in a different way, I have been able to reshape the interaction and hence my cultural identity. In “Meeting the Shadow,” Zweig and Abrams state that “by using arts and media … to imagine something as evil or demonic, we attempt to gain power over it, to break its spell.” But my time here in Urbino has led me to a different conclusion: that only by using the arts and media to experience new points of view can I hope to gain the power to communicate between cultures and within my own identity.