Cultural values, attitudes and behaviors prominently influence how a given group of people view, understand, process, communicate, and manage data, information, and knowledge. Cultural differences can be understood as cultural bias, a bias so deeply ingrained that it is unconscious, unless explicitly examined. Culture has been defined as a kind of collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group from another (Hofstede 1984). In essence, the content of culture consists of a set of underlying norms and values of behavior, shared by a group of people tied together by powerful affiliations or bonds. It has been argued that the considerable social differences that exist among cultures affect, among other things, tacit epistemologies (theories of knowledge, including what counts as knowledge and degrees of certainty about knowledge) and the nature of cognitive processes—the ways by which people know the world (Nisbett et al. 2001). For example, traditional Chinese cognition has been termed holistic, while ancient Greek culture has been termed analytic (Nisbett et al. 2001). Holistic thought involves an orientation to the context or field as a whole and a preference for explaining and predicting events based on the existing relationships. Analytic thought is defined as detaching the object from its context, focusing on the object’s attributes, assigning it to categories, and using rules to explain and predict the object’s behavior. These cognitive patterns have tended to persist into modern times. However, it has been claimed that the previous, standard, anthropologically derived concepts of culture are out of touch with the connectivities and networks of the modern global economy (Barnham and Heiner 1998). Recent and compelling IS research highlights the active role of people interacting with the emergent, contested and ongoing nature of culture, and people’s reactions to dynamic, situated contexts (Meyers and Tan 2002; Walsham 2002; Weisinger and Trauth 2002). As a result, there have been calls for a paradigmatic shift in the way culture is viewed.
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