From the ancient time of, Aristotle and Confucius, people across different cultures have perceived the world in different ways (Nisbett, 2010). Culture influences every aspect of our lives from basic processes of cognition and perception (Ji et al., 2000; Masuda and Nisbett, 2001) to a range of our behavior (Brislin, 2006). Therefore, studying cultural differences and cultural distance is an important key to understand human behavior in the analysis of social science or humanities (Baldwin et al., 2006), and the concepts of cultural distance (e.g., Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory and psychic distance) are widely used for quantifying cultural differences.
Recently, the advent of Web has fundamentally changed the way individuals are exposed to other cultures. Web gives us fruitful opportunities to consume the cultural content from other culture; we are now able to communicate with people across the globe easier than before. However, online communication (e.g, user interaction, online contents co-consumption) is still affected by national-level factors such as language (Ronen et al., 2014), geographical border (Kulshrestha et al., 2012; Park et al., 2015; Platt et al., 2015), economic status (Barnett and Sung, 2005; Platt et al., 2015), religion (Park et al., 2015), and cultural values (Garcia-Gavilanes et al., 2013, 2014).
Such phenomenon motivates this dissertation: my thesis focuses on 1) the impact of cultural difference on online communication in order to provide insights and implications for refining and advancing cross-cultural theories, and 2) a framework for measuring and finding important culture values influencing online communication across cultures. Thanks to the recorded web data containing most of all daily life of people, we are able to analyze large-scale human behavior data naturally generated from all around world.
In this dissertation, I first propose a methodology for analyzing the impact of culture on online communication using the large-scale online dataset. Second, I characterize cultural differences in online communication by focusing on the nonverbal cues in microblogs, Twitter, and video consumption patterns on YouTube. The results demonstrate that the use of representative nonverbal cues, emoticons, and the video co-consumption patterns are related to users’ cultural background. Finally, I design a model for finding the main cultural values related to online communication by relying on Gudykunst’s cultural variability in communication theory, and then figure out the relationship between cultural values and online communication. The main findings in this dissertation are: 1) language has most important impact on online communication not only in text-based communication but also in audio-visual based communication, 2) people within individualistic cultures favor horizontal and mouth-oriented emoticons like :), while those within collectivistic cultures favor vertical and eye-oriented emoticons like ^_^, indicating countries’ cultural values such as individualism-collectivism also have significant impact on online communication, and 3) countries with high individualism and low uncertainty avoidance values are more likely in central positions of global video consumption structure than countries with high collectivism and uncertainty avoidance, indicating countries’ cultural values are related to the countries’ roles in global online communication structure.
The methodology used in this dissertation can serve as a useful guide for researchers in refining and advancing their theories from the perspective of methodological triangulation by using a large-scale dataset naturally generated by users. Also, I provide an insight for system designers and marketers in designing a global communication platform that effectively encourages intercultural communication.
I believe that this dissertation not only serves as a starting point for further efforts in considering cultural differences in understanding user behavior online, but also provides useful insight for supporting and connecting users from different cultures in online.