Sunday, May 22, 2005


It has come to my attention that people have begun reading this journal, and so I thought I'd apologise for having suddenly stopped writing a week ago. I haven't been advertising it since I didn't know if I would keep it up, and I must admit that the way things look right now, I won't be able to update you before the 1st of June at the very earliest...

See, my thesis is to be handed in then, and although blogwriting certainly helped me structure my ideas and pushed me to keep writing and finishing off drafts to get them published up here, now I'm getting to the work which is really tricky... getting it all to fit together into a neat, crisp thesis.

I will keep you updated later though... but apologies until then :)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Survey Results 6d: Online Purchasing

A high amount of online purchasing of material objects was expected among TCKs. It is expected that commodities not available (or difficult to find) in Denmark would be purchased on the web, e.g. foreign music and pop-cultural artifacts particular in foreign countries.

The results show that all the respondents have tried purchasing things online, thus web trust is not a major issue. However, Natalie and Manuel mention that they are wary with purchasing things from websites outside of Denmark as they don’t feel that the websites in their host countries are safe enough. Manuel also submits that web purchasing hasn’t broken through in his host country yet, thus making it difficult for now.

The respondents mentioned purchasing the following items online:

• Flight tickets (8 respondents)
• Books (7 respondents)
• Computer hardware and software (expected, 6 respondents)
• DVDs, CDs (4 respondents)
• Cultural activities (movie tickets, concert tickets, hotel booking) (3 respondents)
• Mobile Phone Units
• Memberships
• Gift vouchers
• Clothes
• Medicine

The items purchased are generally bought for the reason that they are often cheaper on the Internet than elsewhere – a fact which is especially expected among a sample of mostly student respondents. Equally expected was the purchase of computer hard- and software and electronics among so many students of technology.

The purchasing of CDs and DVDs was lower than expected. Manuel explains that he travels often enough to buy them in “real shops”, and in general likes the tactile sensation of buying them there.

In general however, purchasing items from abroad isn’t practiced much at all, and especially not for the reason of "getting in touch with past homes" – Natalie admits that her clothes purchases have only been of the brand H&M – a brand very much omnipresent in most of Europe and especially in Denmark. The fact that she has seen it in real life, and that she knows the sizes, make it easy for her to buy something from that particular chain of clothes.

Survey Results 6c: News

All of the respondents check up on the news at least every couple of days. Five individuals check it many times a day, five check it at least once a day, and five check it every couple of days. Barbara refers to herself as a news-addict, and expresses that she finds it important to get a nuanced and diverse image of what is going on in the world. She is mostly interested in world news, and makes an effort in reading up on the same issue from many different points of view – she daily visits websites from Denmark, Germany, BBC and CNN.

Reasons why news websites are preferred to other media are that there is always access to them, that one can go directly to the article in which they are interested in, and that they make it possible to see an issue from the points of view of many different countries. Besides Barbara, the importance for this is also expressed by Abira, Nikolaj, Dan, Manuel and Giovanni. The high proficiency in languages is of course an important prerequisite for this to occur.

The most popular medium for news is, however, still TV. Natalie explains that it is the easiest just to sit back and relax in the evening and let the news come to her rather than have to look for it actively.

The rest of the respondents read or watch world or international news, while just six are interested in local or national news. Five are interested in reading about culture (music, books, events), equally five are interested in politics, nine are interested in science and technology, two are interested in finance.

While some admit to watching the news on the two main Danish channels (DR1 and TV2), many will regularly visit CNN or BBC for news updates on current events.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Survey Results 6b: Chat, Online Communities and Personal Websites

The need to interact with the international environment articulated by most of the respondents could be expected to lead Danish ATCKs in the pursuit of other TCKs abroad, or participating in an online TCK community.

Twelve out of 16 respond that they chat, two used to but don't any longer (Katrine and Giovanni), and two (Barbara and David) don't chat at all. Barbara reasons this with the fact that she has plenty of social contact in her every day life, and has no need for further interaction. David on the other hand, mentions that in his case he always needs to plan this beforehand, which is difficult especially when he has no internet access at home or work.

Those who do chat predominantly do so with people they already know from face-to-face settings. Seven responded that they mainly chatted with people who lived far away or abroad, while three mostly chat with people who live close by. The remaining three mention that they chat equally with people close by as people abroad.

The survey shows that chat occurs predominantly with existing relations, and that generally, there is very little interaction with strangers. The same tendency is apparent when enquiring into participation in online communities or fora – most do not feel the need to participate, while those who do participate in for a, predominantly visit those with the purpose of information exchange rather than relationship building.

A quick exploration of the web reveals that there are in fact online communities created for the purpose of TCK interaction – Orkut has two communities, one named Third Culture Kids, and the related community Global Nomads, inhabited by mostly the same individuals. However, the participation level is extremely low, Third Culture Kids was created in February 2004, and 44 posts in total, the last one from December 2004. Global Nomads was also created in February 2004, but hold only 24 posts in total, the last also from December.). It is possible however, that the members participating in these communities interact privately.

The Global Nomad Virtual Village, which was founded in 1998, writes as its vision:
“The Global Nomad Virtual Village (GNVV) is an internet-based, non-profit, organization; a virtual hub or virtual village, that provides global nomads, third culture kids, Foreign Service dependents, military brats, (basically anyone who shares the common bond of growing up in a foreign land)... a permanent "place" to keep in touch."
Contact information or a forum however, is nowhere to be seen on the website, neither are mailing lists. “Military brats” - children who have been brought up in military bases outside the USA have an online home at The site features a message board, a photo album and announcements of arranged meetings real life meetings for the military brats. While meetings have been arranged since October 2003, there are no photos nor are there any postings on the message board. MK connection doesn’t offer a forum, but links to stories and poetry written by former missionary kids who have grown up as TCKs. Finally, the Danish TCK organisation DUO’s website reports that it has been at a standstill since 2002.

While chatting for meeting others isn’t practiced much among TCKs, it is still a valuable and important tool for keeping up pre-existing networks. In the same way as SMS messages, short conversations are important to the respondents, making it possible for a constant bond. Natalie mentions a website which she keeps with three friends from high school, mostly used for sharing pictures. Dan and Katrine each own a family website, used for internal communication in the family only.

Survey Results 6a: Communication

It is difficult to say that there are any trends in terms of preferred CMC technologies for interpersonal communication. And of course, personal preferences do play a big role here, and often the follow-up interviews have given a clearer picture of preference trends than mere box-ticking does. The respondents were asked how they preferred to communicate with 1) strangers, for formal purposes 2) family and relatives near and far, 3) friends, close by or abroad.

The following were the results:

Regular MailPhoneEmailChatWebcam
Formal communication
with people close by
- 8 8 - -
Formal communication
with people abroad
1 2 13 - -
With family and
relatives close by
- 11 - 2 -
With family and
relatives abroad
- 11 3 3 1
close by
- 8 1 6 -
Friends abroad - 1 10 6 -

It is not so surprising that the more traditional media was preferred when communicating with family and relatives, compared to friends. This undoubtedly has to do with the age gap - Barbara, 44, would find it very unnatural to contact her parents in any other way than over the phone - "they would be insulted!". David, who chats with his family members nearby, admits that this is because the only family member in his vicinity is his one year older sister.

However, when communicating with family abroad, although the phone is by far still the preferred medium, we see a couple more instances of chatting, including Natalie who speaks to her family in Canada over the webcam.

With friends however, although the phone is still preferred to other media, the tendency of communication through chatting is emerging (Chatting will be dealt with in more detail in a later post). Follow-up interviews highlighted that much communication with friends over the phone actually takes place via SMS (text messaging), indicating then that communication style as well as medium is different depending on who they communicate with. Generally, while communication with family members occurs perhaps once a week, but perhaps for an hour or so, communication among peers is rather a session of punctuating the every day lives of Danish TCKs. Natalie explains how happy she gets when she receives SMSes from a high school friend, currently living in Australia. Her friend mentioned that he was eating Korean food, and thought he'd mention to Natalie how it reminded him of the "good times". By consequence, Natalie opened up Google to search for Korean recipes. Something, she says, wouldn't have happened if she hadn't had the Internet.

Although space and time friction has been minimised over the advent of the Internet, these are still a hurdle. David and Britta both mention that chatting with individuals abroad is difficult because one must first make arrangements for a time in which to call - often resulting in their forgetting the appointments or having to turn on the Internet at odd times. Once chatting though, Britta states she usually doesn't think about the time difference, unless it is expressed by the interlocutor. For the respondents in general, chat sessions with friends happen impulsively and sporadically, and interaction with friends overseas is squeezed in naturally between chores or during work breaks.

For some, such as in Abira's case, interaction with friends and acquaintances abroad is so pervasive in their lives that they feel their lives are still spent abroad rather than in Copenhagen. An avid skype user, she is on the web based telephone to Israel "constantly".

I was surprised to see so little webcam usage however. Only Natalie mentions that she owns a webcam, while Abira and Manuel chat with others who own one, although they don't own one themselves. Abira is pleased with being able to see her friends and their families when she chats with them, and expects to buy a webcam herself soon. Manuel on the other hand, doesn't see the need - webcams are useless when chatting, as the chatting counterpart "is always just staring down at the keyboard".

Yet, Natalie and Abira enjoy being able to see their friends' new haircuts, their children, and basically, it serves well as a substitute for meeting in real life. Natalie adds that she hasn't seen her family in Canada for at least two years.

(Please note that all the respondents' names have been changed.)

Survey Results 6: Media Use

The last results from the survey are central to this thesis, and are also very comprehensive. For this reason, this post will have to be divided up into many more posts, which will be dealing with the following subjects:
  • a) Communication

  • b) Chat, Online Communities and Personal Websites

  • c) News

  • d) Online Purchasing

  • However, here's a little media use background for Danish TCKs in general:

    Internet Access
    13 individuals access the internet from home. Six also access the internet from school or work, and one person only has access from work (this is due to having recently moved house.) Finally, David only has internet access from friends' houses and webcafés.

    Internet Skills
    12 respondents pay their bills through the web, expressing therefore a good level of trust in the web. As we shall see, this is underpinned by the fact that all of the respondents have tried purchasing something online. Ten individuals are able to create simple webpages, and finally, six respondents are able to construct complex websites or do computer programming. These data are mainly useful with regard to getting a general idea of the web skills that the respondents have, and to give a good indication of why some do not, for instance, have a personal website (the answer therefore possibly being that they do not have the skills for this.)

    Internet Experience
    The respondents have had between 5 and 10 years of experience with the Internet, with an average of 8.3. We can therefore comfortably say that this sample of respondents are not novices of Internet.

    Friday, May 13, 2005

    Survey Results 5: Cultural Identity

    Stuart Hall has submitted that the future is equally as important in cultural identity construction as both the past and the present. The question posed to the respondents about the importance on which they place on their (future) partner or spouse having a multicultural background can be assumed to be indicative of what the TCK expects from his or her future.

    Importance of multicultural background of partner
    Just two individuals found it very important that their future spouse had a multicultural background like themselves, while another five consider it quite important. Those who look for multiculturality in their partner submit that what is important to them is a mutual frame of reference, in order to understand where the other is coming from. Barbara, for instance, has been married twice to mono-cultural men, but only when she met her third husband, with the same multi-cultural background as her own, did she finally feel that she had met the right person.

    Many mention that it is important to them with regard to practical reasons – those who expect to move abroad in the future find that it is important that their partner will understand this wish, and especially be able to adjust to a new culture. In addition, Manuel mentions that it is important to him that his children learn at least two languages while growing up, submitting that this will be important if they are to cope career-wise in the future.

    Those who find that a multicultural background is irrelevant (7), not surprisingly mention that “soul mates are better”, and that a multi-cultural background is not a prerequisite for character traits that really matter to them, such as a good sense of humour, and that essentially, love happens regardless of backgrounds. The values that a mono-cultural person has, no matter where he or she is from, are equally as valid as those of a multi-cultural person.

    However, what does matter is a tolerance and respect towards other cultures, a trait which is equally found among mono-cultural as multi-cultural people.

    Personal Cultural Identity
    In terms of their own cultural identity, only Katrine and Dan regard themselves as Danish. Interestingly, Katrine is also the only person in the sample who has yet to move back to Denmark. Dan, on the other hand, expresses that while this is a difficult question, he has then adopted "Danish" as his cultural label, having his typically Scandinavian looks playing a big part in this decision. Being able to describe a label to someone is important he says, so as to facilitate communication. A national label, then, gives strangers a starting reference in order to "figure you out".

    Many express difficulty in answering this question, explaining that they are confused and split between nationalities. Some describe their cultural identity in terms of percentages (50% this, 30% that and the remaining 20% a third nationality.) Natalie, Line, Jonas and Davis however, seem to have a clear understanding of themselves as belonging to a third culture. Natalie expresses that she is a citizen of the world, Line describes herself in terms of broadened horizons and easily adaptive to different situations. Jonas defines himself as a global hybrid, whereas David describes his background as that of the international school and everything that the international school culture entails - in particular the high cultural diversity among the pupils.

    Influences on cultural identity include:
  • Friends (7 responses)

  • Living and traveling abroad (6)

  • Cultural experiences while growing up (5),
    (including growing up with other people from all over the world (2))

  • Upbringing, parents and family (5)

  • School and/or work (5)

  • Social activities (3)

  • Languages

  • Literature, music, food

  • Religion, history, heritage, news, politics, economics

  • Self-perception

  • Looks

  • Besides the culture which one’s own parents have brought one up with, central elements in identity construction are interaction with individuals from other cultures and experiencing other cultures especially through childhood. Religion, history and heritage have a low occurrence in influence, while communication, especially interaction is regarded very highly as a cultural influence.

    TCK identification
    In terms of relating to the TCK definition, just Britta and Mette responded that they did not identify with it at all. Britta explains that she in fact feels more attracted to people who have had a monocultural background, very much due to the fact that she found them much more interesting than those with the same background. However, she adds, her husband has in fact traveled a lot during childhood. Mette chose not to comment on her answer.

    Six respondents completely identified themselves with the definition, four respondents mostly did, and four partially did. Hannah, who completely identified herself with this definition, felt that non-TCKs would never completely understand her – Natalie concurred. Katrine, who mostly identifies with this definition concurs with Britta that she finds mono-cultural people equally as fascinating as TCKs. Line submits that while TCKs relate to each other easier, if non-TCKs are open-minded enough and are willing to try and understand the TCK background, then they can relate to each other as well.

    Survey Results 4: International Contact

    This series serves to gain an understanding of the relationship between the respondent and the level of international contact that the individual has had growing up and the importance of it today.

    International contact growing up
    Growing up, 11 respondents had frequented an International School. 9 respondents frequented Danes Worldwide Summerschool, in which Danish children living in countries all over the world were collected in Denmark and taught Danish language and culture. Finally, a couple mentioned frequenting the Danish churches, Scandinavian communities and international clubs.

    International contact today
    Today, two respondents answer that keeping contact with the international environment is not very important. The reasons for this is explained by a very strong connection to the Danish society, and expressing a wish for living the mono-cultural life - the idea of engaging in international societies seems unappealing in comparison to complete immersion into a culture.

    Eight respond that international contact is quite important while five responded that contact to the international environment is very important. One was undecided, and no one felt that it wasn't important at all. Those who found it" quite important" or "very important", frequently explained that it was a part of their identities. A couple mentioned the importance of keeping up-to-date with international affairs, to keep learning and keeping an open mind. Finally, some answered that they kept in touch with the international environment "for the fun of it".

    All of the individuals who found it to be very important to maintain contact with the international environment also wish they had more international contact today.

    Fulfilling the need for international contact
    To fulfill the need for international contact, 5 individuals specifically mentioned web-related activities: emailing, surfing and chatting. Other activities mentioned were "travelling", working for NGOs promoting intercultural exchange such as IAESTE, volunteering as a "buddy" - entailing helping out exchange students. In general, interaction both with friends abroad and strangers is important in order to maintain contact with the international environment.

    The maintenance of international contact is, obviously, dependent on whether one finds it important. There does, however, seem to be a trend that individuals eventually settle down in a community and feel satiated with regards to international contact. The ages for this change, but I suspect that the way they envision their future may have something to do with it.

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    Survey Results 3: Geographical Connections

    12 respondents out of 16 have lived in two or more countries excluding Denmark during their developmental years, representing between them a total of 30 countries. The countries in which they have lived represent all of the world's continents, and include: Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Libya, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunesia, USA and Venezuela.

    The large number of different countries of course means that the TCK sample cannot be said to be homogenic in terms of geographical connections. However, this is exactly what is also characteristic of TCKs - that they are highly mobile and experience very diverse cultures throughout their lives, and especially the fact that their network is thinly spread all over the world. If we were to only study the children who are, say, Danish but brought up in Italy, we would in fact be studying the Danish diaspora in Italy rather than the Danish TCK network, and the results would then be expected to be different. (See the following post for an in-depth description of the differences between TCKs and Diasporas).

    Three of the respondents are currently living in countries outside of Denmark, 2 have already lived in Denmark and have then moved on, one has yet to live in Denmark, but expects to return to Denmark eventually to finish her studies. Ten of the respondents mentioned their return to Denmark as being due to education, either to go to boarding school or to begin university studies. It is perhaps worth noting here, that education is free in Denmark, and may have a heavy influence on decisions regarding where to take further education. Unless their parents are still living in childhood host countries, the respondents seldom go back there. This, they explain, is usually because they don't know anyone there any more - the others with whom they spent their childhood with have also either returned to their passport countries or moved on.

    The above underpins the idea that Adams and Ghose submit in their article " - the construction of a space between"- that places are topologies of people. Once one's friends and family move away from there, the physical place no longer has the same importance to the TCK. Home, they say, is often equated with wherever they have their daily lives at the current moment, or in connection with their loved ones - partners, children or parents, or finally, home is defined as the country in which the TCK has spent the most time.

    Moving in the future?
    12 of the respondents have no clear idea as to where they expect to live in the future, but do see themselves moving abroad at a point later on in life. The most common factors which are expected to have influence on where they expect to go are career-related. Some, who have lived in Denmark for many years, have established families and a relationship to the community, and expect to remain in Denmark for this reason.

    Survey Results 2: Languages

    To learn a new language is to gain a new soul
    - Czech Proverb

    Being multicultural is regularly tied to being multilingual (Leontovich, 2003). It is not surprising to see that all of the TCKs featured in my sample of 16 respondents speak at least two languages (all English and Danish), eleven of whom speak three languages or more.

    Mother Tongue
    What I find more interesting however, is the respondents' designation of their mother tongue. Danish was chosen as the mother tongue among five respondents, Spanish and Italian was chosen by one respondent each, while four individuals designate English as their mother tongue. Interestingly however, 3 of the respondents who chose English as they mother tongue neither have parents from an English speaking country, nor have they been brought up in a country where English is the official language. According to follow up interviews with two out of three of these respondents, this is mainly due to the fact that their parents of different nationalities chose English as their lingua franca, and thus bring up their children in English alongside their other native languages. In addition, four individuals are split between Danish and English being their mother tongue, three of them in spite of their parents both being from either Denmark or Nordic cultures. One of these respondents notes that when he thinks, he thinks in English, and so for some, the language in which you think is also your mother tongue.

    Another respondent, who sees his mother tongue as being equally English, Danish and French, concurs by submitting that your mother tongue is the language which you count in. However, this fluctuates according to context - who he's with, where he is and how long he's been there for.

    English as a Third Culture Language?
    Everyday life in international settings, and especially in international schools - in which classes are usually in English - is bound to have it's influence on one's cultural identity, in particular when the time spent in school exceeds the time spent at home in waking hours.

    The occurrence of English as a common language has been expected for a while now. Research has already shown that English is becoming an increasingly integral part of language in many countries, and especially so in the context of media. For instance, a study conducted by Mercedes Durham on the emergence of a Pan-Swiss English as the chosen language between the German, French and Italian populations in mailing lists further supports this tendency. Meanwhile, Swedish youngsters are increasingly incorporating English in text messages conversations. (Hård Af Segerstad, in CATaC 2002 proceedings).

    There is obviously a long way between using English occasionally in text messages, and assuming it as a mother tongue. But it is an interesting trend nonetheless.

    Survey Results 1: Demographic Details

    Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, the respondents of my questionnaire were equally male (8) and female (8) - even before sorting the TCKs out from the total number of responses. I had initially expected more males since I knowingly sent out to students of IT and engineering, mainly to ensure that my respondents would have some experience with IT, and also because these individuals are those who are ascribed in my own immediate social circle (yes, I am surrounded by geeks :) ). There's a majority of students in the sample, amounting to 11 out of 16.

    Social Class
    Having expected a large amount of students responding to my survey, I decided to try and get some inkling of their social class in terms of their parents' professions. However, I found it to be most ethically correct to leave this question optional, leading to 5 non-responses. Of the rest of the answers, there is a majority tending towards professions of high education, including doctors, journalists, managers and geophysicists. All respondents to this question (11) had working parents but one, whose mother is a housewife.

    Six of the respondents had dual citizenship, one of which was Danish (as was required as one of the qualifications to be regarded as a Danish TCK). Nine of the respondents had parents of differing cultures, at least 3 of which were themselves bi-cultural. 12 respondents had at least one parent living outside of Denmark, 4 respondents had both their parents living in Denmark.

    The average age is 27, ranging from 19 to 44. However, only 3 respondents were above 30 years of age. Thus, many of these respondents are at an age in which the Internet was only a part of their adult or nearly-adult lives. Thus we can understand these individuals as traditional TCKs, that is, as having had no or little influence from the Internet in their identity construction process.

    The Survey

    The questionnaires were first pilot tested by four friends of mine, and were then sent on to their friends, in accordance with the snowball sampling technique.

    The initial survey consists of online questionnaires of 45 - 50 questions (dependent on how they answered individual questions), divided into 7 sessions:
  • SESSION 1: Demographic Details

  • SESSION 2: Languages

  • SESSION 3: Geographical Connections

  • SESSION 4: International Environment

  • SESSION 5: Cultural Identity

  • SESSION 6: Media Use

  • SESSION 7: Finishing Questions

  • The first session deals with things like name, age, profession and that kind of thing, mainly to provide me with some insight on the homogeny of the group that I'm studying.

    The second session merely looks into which and how many languages the individuals speak, as well as which is their mother tongue. I expect their answers to give interesting clues in terms of where they feel that they belong.

    Session three deals with where they have lived, and where they expect to live in the future, as well as what they think influences their decisions.

    The fourth session deals with engagement in international communities and environments, both growing up and as adults.

    The fifth session includes the questions most central to this survey - how do they define their cultural identity, what do they think influences it, and where would they define 'home'? These questions were all open ended.

    Session six contains a bunch of closed questions, looking into their use of different media. The open-ended questions mostly enquire into the "why"s and "why not"s of their media use.

    The last questions are merely practical - the respondent is asked to choose a level of anonymity, and is asked to provide with any contacts whom they think may fit the right profile.

    Future posts will deal with the results in each session. However, due to confidentiality reasons, quotes from the respondents will be shown in the final thesis.

    Initial Methodological Considerations

    First, a quick reminder:
    The aim of this research is to explore how ATCKs use the Internet in order to take or maintain contact with the cultures in which they were brought up.

    In order to do this, I adopted a qualitative approach, using first questionnaires and later follow-up interviews. Since the recruitment of TCKs could prove difficult, I opted to call for multi-cultural individuals, and then manually sorting through the responses to sort out the individuals who fit the TCK profile. To further heighten my chances of finding individuals who fit the TCK profile, I opted for the snowball sampling technique. Here, the researcher relies on a qualified respondent to refer to other individuals with the same characteristics, who may then refer to the next and so on. This method is used for locating hidden populations, or social networks with a rare characteristic. One should of course keep in mind that there is a high possibility of bias among the collected respondents, however it is held that although the snowball sampling technique cannot be said to represent a whole population, it can represent a social network.

    In this research, the individuals who qualified as matching the Danish TCK profile had to fulfill the following:

    • The individual must have lived at least two years in a country outside of Denmark.

    • The years abroad must have been spent during the developmental years. These were designated to be between 5 and 18, the school years.

    • The individual must hold Danish citizenship

    • The individual must finally express some affinity with a third culture, for instance through a deep internalisation of at least two cultures, involvement in international activities as children etc.

    The number of individuals who matched the TCK profiles amounted to a total of 16, (8 female, 8 male). Of these, 8 were chosen to be interviewed subject to availability in the span of 3 weeks set aside for interviews.

    The requirement of the respondents being Danish TCKs explicitly is due to the fact that although TCKs in general would be expected to be the same in many ways, (hence the definition,)regardless of their passport countries, Vicki Lambiri still draws attention to the fact that this is an issue that still needs to be researched (Lambiri, 2005). It is expected that Danish TCKs would be very much like American TCKs (who have been the subjects of the vast majority of TCK studies so far). Some evidence that there may be a difference between cultures may be the fact that of the 5 Icelandic TCKs, none of them had involved in international environments as children, whereas 12 of the Danish TCKs had gone to international schools and the rest at least to Danish summercamps. Attitude towards internationalisation may be different from culture to culture.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    Motivation Behind this Research

    In order to remind myself why I ever decided this topic for an MSc thesis, but also in order to justify it to myself and the readers, I have decided to list the reasons why I find this interesting, as well as the more "proper" reasons why this research is in fact worth my time.

    My main, personal motivation behind this thesis is probably to have an excuse to explore the body of research that there is on Third Culture Kids, and relating it to the current knowledge on the Internet as a globalising media.

    Vicki Lambiri notes that there is still a lot of research to be done on TCKs. She recently wrote a list of the Top Eight Research Needs (pdf) to be done on TCKs. At the top of the list is "How is Technology impacting the TCK Experience?", including issues such as keeping in touch with friends abroad, the "cushioning" of returning to one's home country and finally the questions "What influence is the Internet having on the shaping of TCK identity? How will the use of the web help third culture kids understand the multiple cultures that connect them to their identity?". Although my study is related to adult TCKs rather than TCKs as children, it is pleasing to see that what I'm studying is in fact needed research.

    Although this thesis sprung from a plain, elementary interest in TCKs and their use of the media, I also hope to understand what this means in terms of the Internet as a tool for intercultural understanding. I'll admit at the moment of writing this post I do not really know what I hope to find - but I guess I am hoping that by looking at how TCKs use the Internet to maintain contact with the international environment (assuming of course, that they do,) we will be able to discover the third spaces that are created in cyberspace, and thereby see the potentials in the tools provided by the Internet to mediate cultural cues, and eventually promote cultural understanding.

    Charles Ess (yet unpublished) suggests that research begins to connect the post-colonial body of research with that of IT, and I would like to think that I am doing something like that.

    Third Culture Kids

    What is fascinating about Third Culture Kids, is the challenge that they go through in their identity construction. By definition, a TCK is a person who
    "has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. (Pollock and Van Reken, 2001:19).
    While adults may experience culture shock when they move to a foreign country, their background consisting of friends, language, and traditions has already been established. They thus already have one culture appointed as the framework which can influence the development of their identity as a whole. TCKs, however, interact intimately with two or more cultures, and their identity is in this way constructed by way of differing, often opposite cultural cues.

    The definition continues:
    "The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background." (Pollock and Van Reken, 2001:19).
    The sense of belonging is therefore not anchored in a place, but in relationships. We might understand the last part of the above definition in terms of the othering process of TCKs as a form of "multi-cultural" versus "mono-cultural" individuals.

    TCKs differ from immigrants in that they are expected to return to the home country - the country of the parents. Often this is done after high school graduation and it is this phase which I find the most interesting. While the TCK would find herself explaining her differences as being related to coming from a different country, when she re-enters her country of origin she is usually met with an unexpected sensation of her home country not feeling like home after all. It is often upon re-entry that she realises that she might belong somewhere in between the home country, and the host country(ies) in which she was brought up. It is also at this point, that the label "Third Culture Kid" is most useful to the adult TCK:
    What ATCKs Can Do: Name Themselves and Their Experience
    For many TCKs putting a name to their past - "I grew up as a third culture kid" - opens a new perspective on life. Discovering there are legitimate reasons for their life experiences and the resulting feelings not only helps them understand themselves better, it also normalizes the experience. Some, who have spent a lifetime thinking they're alone in their differentness, discover they have lived a normal life after all - at least normal for a TCK.
    (Pollock and Van Reken, 2001:271)
    The need to find a label that suits oneself can thus be very liberating for a TCK, helping to overcome then the dilemma of deciding on one's home country, and thereby acknowledging and naming their Placeless Identity.

    Most studies have been done on TCKs as children, however Ruth Useem did study what happened to TCKs when they became adults - i.e. ATCKs.

    Past research on ATCKs indicates that although TCKs do eventually settle down in a community, "once one is a TCK, they are always a TCK" - they still have problems relating to their own ethnic group. They maintain that an international element in their lives is very important to them,
    they work toward that goal by keeping international touches in their homes, welcoming opportunities to meet foreigners, and keeping informed on the places they lived abroad.(Useem, 1993)
    In what ways does the Internet help ATCKs keep in touch with the international environment?

    (See also the earlier post entitled "Children of Globalisation")

    Tuesday, May 10, 2005

    Hypothesis Two: High Context Communication tools preferred

    What distinguishes TCKs today and those before the Internet became a household technology is the possibilities that exist today for instant and rich communication between them and their family and friends abroad. The Internet appears to hold strong potentials for immediate connection to past places, with the possibilities of cheap IP-telephony and webcam communication, making it possible today to indulge in rich and dialogical communication sessions.

    In the same way that book readership makes it possible to immerse into deeper levels of everyday life of a culture, so it would be expected for streamed visual communication.

    This is especially interesting considering that due to living in different cultures, we could assume that TCKs learn to act and communicate in different styles. Webcams could increase the possibility of interlocuting with the aid of body language and gestures, communication cues that are especially prevalent in high context cultures such as asian countries.

    We would hypothesise that
    H2: ATCKs have a need for webcams and other high context communication tools in their everyday lives.

    Hypothesis One: Interest in Local News on Foreign Websites

    Although very little is written on TCKs and their use of the media, one thing that struck me was the "3D view" that they have on the world. As an example, Pollock and Useem mention that TCKs "get homesick" while watching National Geographic for instance:
    As TCKs live in various cultures, they not only learn about cultural differences but also experience the world in a tangible way that is impossible to do through reading books, seeing movies, or watching nightly newscasts alone. Because they have lived in so many places, smelled so many smells, heard so many strange sounds, and been in so many strange situations, throughout their lives when they read a story in the newspaper or watch it on the TV screen, the flat, odorless images transform into an internal 3-D panoramic picture show. It's almost as if they were there in person, smelling the smells, tasting the tastes, perspiring with the heat. They may not be present at the event, but they have a clear awareness of what is going on and what it is like for those who are there. (Pollock & van Reken, 2001: 83 - 84)
    I think that the experience that they are referring to here is something that we all experience once in a while - the funny feeling that we get, when we unexpectedly see a very well known landmark that we visit every day on TV. When we see this image, we also see what is invisible to others who are viewing the same image, for instance the surroundings behind the camera and behind the landmark.

    We could suppose that ATCKs (Adult Third Culture Kids) then would hunger for images and stories from afar to regain a sense of proximity to the places which they know so very well, and that they would use the Internet as a main tool for this purpose. One main source would be news websites, especially those with video news. In-depth narratives and stories would be preferred from simple “shallow” news, so we might expect that a high percentage of ATCKs would be likely to own subscriptions to certain newspapers (online or offline) to delve in richer and more detailed accounts of countries afar.

    This hypothesis is further supported by the findings of Jeffres et al., who submit that among the more traditional media (TV, Radio and books), individuals with a very high “cosmopoliteness score” prefer to explore their world through book readership, rather than up-to-minute reports of world events, compared to individuals with a “low cosmopoliteness score” (from “A model linking community activity and communication with political attitudes and involvement in neighbourhoods” (2002), referred to in “Cosmopoliteness in the Internet Age”).

    So, my first hypothesis would be that
    H1: ATCKs are likely to prefer web news from TV news due to the global diversity available on the Internet, and due to in depth accounts about the localities in which they were brought up.