Symbolization of Modern Urban Culture Space: Exploring the Invisible Source of Dynamism for Higher Education Internationalization

Abstract:The symbolization of the signification of modern urban culture space promotes theoretical growth in the researches on the dynamism of higher education internationalization. And the internationalization of the city makes it become even more complicated when confronted with the separation of significance and form. The symbolic interactionism theory provides theoretical approaches to this problem. In modern city, the scope and ways of symbolic interaction have experienced profound change, and in order to bridge the gap between the form and significance of urban culture space and find ways in which urban symbolic space is represented and its significance expressed, the internationalization of higher education emerges as time required. Its significance is represented through the construction of urban education symbols. On the one hand it inherits the traditional urban culture and on the other hand advances the comprehensive development of human being.

Key words: Urban Culture Space, Symbol, Higher Education, Internationalization, Dynamism


The development and internationalization of modern higher education depends upon the development of modern city and the formation of urban culture. The formation of modern urban space happens, to a certain degree, with the structuring of space. And in order to realize it cultural significance, the space structure needs to be symbolized. People are inundated by urban symbols like, blurred neon lights, skyscrapers, various statues, noisy commuting systems, broad highways, walking streets and sensual shopping mall, when the city is internationalizing. Evidently, citizens as the educated can't totally immerse themselves into the cultural symbols. Thus, it is very significant to explore the interrelationship between culture symbol and higher education internationalization while taking into consideration the symbolization of urban culture spaces structure.

1. The Formation of Urban Symbol Space: The Point Where Urban Culture and Higher Education Internationalization Converge

Both the formation and extension of modern urban culture experience symbolization. Modern urban culture space, to a certain degree, exist in the form of urban symbol space because the city exteriorize its cultural connotations, to a large extent, through the symbolized landscape and features of urban spiritual culture and so on. Therefore, to interpret urban culture space is actually to interpret urban symbol space.

The so-called symbol is the meaning of one thing which is contained in another thing. The symbol communicates information and substitutes a concrete thing for another thing or a certain concept. Modern city transfers reality into symbols through constructing urban symbol space and people explore the city's cultural connotation and its development through the symbols. Cassirer proclaimed in his An Essay on Man, instead of defining man as an animal rationale, we should define him as an animal symbolicum (44). Obviously, according to Cassirer, the significance of symbol is represented in two aspects: one the one hand things represent their cultural connotations in symbols; on the other hand, the life of human beings, whether they live in the country or the city, educated or illiterate all live in the world of symbols and communicate with them.

No longer in a merely physical universe, man lives in a symbolic universe Instead of dealing with the things themselves man is in a sense constantly conversing with himself. He has so enveloped himself in linguistic forms, in artistic images, in mythical symbols or religious rites that he cannot see or know anything except by the interposition of this artificial medium. His situation is the same in the theoretical as in the practical sphere. (Cassirer, 1985, p.43)

Just as Cassirer believes, people don't live in a world of absolute reality. That is to say, the citizens don't get into urban culture space directly according to their will. Instead, they always need to understand the expansion and cultural connotation of the city through symbolized forms like, language, city image, and artistic forms and so on. Their hope and horror, illusion and disillusion, dream and reality are all represented by city symbols through imagination. Certainly, Cassirer tries to solve the problem of what is man? from the perspective of ontology. Just as in Cassirer's world of philosophy, the whole world is not the exteriorization of a certain kind of spirit or that of the symbol concept. Reversely, symbol is a special way for human beings to understand this world (Ye, 1998, p.15). On whatever ground Cassirer is, his theory of understanding the world through symbol is very significant for the exploration of specific ways of understanding urban cultures connotations and further researches on the relationship between this kind of symbolization and higher education internationalization.

The definition of urban space varies in different disciplines. Some like the physicist Newton regard space as a purely abstract concept like the physical world in a container and others believe that space is part of human beings physiological consciousness. Some scholars point out that beyond the material and functional structure of urban culture space, there is

nonmaterial space structure or urban culture space structure. It is the representational space (such perceptual space, artistic conception space and so on) and fluid space (such as commuting space, shopping space and living space and so on), which are based upon material space but transcend it. (Chai, 2000, p.12)

Obviously, from the aspect of culture and education, urban space is the representational and fluid space and a space of significance, which goes beyond the material space.

However, peoples understanding of this kind of significance space has to experience symbolization. That is to say urban culture space is represented in the form of urban symbol space. According to Cassirer, human beings live in a world of symbols. Human beings living environment can be understood from the two aspects of culture (symbol) and space. It is the spatialization of culture (symbol). Space itself is not a symbol but it is symbolized (Zhu, 1995, p.5). Therefore, to interpret the symbolization of culture from the perspective of space becomes very necessary.

Symbol space is a kind of generalization about the forms of the existing environmental space of the whole human race. Thus, urban space should be a miniature of symbol space, which is what we call urban symbol space. Urban symbol space represents the relationships among city, space and human beings. (Zhu, 1995, p.5)

Human beings biological existence is the precondition for urban symbol space, which is the schematized cognitive mode constructed upon human consciousness in order to understand urban culture space and also a form of its existence. From the perspective of space structure, the objectives of research at least should include the symbol spaces components, its spatial and temporal distance scale, subject of space, and the type or structure of space and so on. To explore the influence of urban culture space upon higher education internationalization, this article focuses upon the movement of symbol space, especially the interaction between the symbolization of culture and higher education in order to research upon the interrelationship among city, space, human being and higher education and so on under the influence of internationalization.

The symbolization of urban culture space is the representation of social behaviors and ways of thinking. In other words, the symbol is the exteriorization of human beings behavior and ways of thinking and this is, to a certain degree congenial to higher education because higher education represents peoples thoughts, culture and behaviors and in terms of its functions it is exactly aimed at exteriorizing general thoughts and behaviors into the impetus for the construction of urban culture space and the development of the city. From this perspective, it is imperative to explore urban cultures stimulation for higher education with the mediation of the symbol.

2. The Flux of Urban Symbol Space: The Invisible Source of Dynamism for Higher Education Internationalization

Apparently, as a representation of urban culture, the symbol plays it due role at any time. Human beings reaction toward the external environment is not merely physical but more often through symbols like language, gestures and facial expressions and so on to express their thoughts. Human beings live in a world where symbols interact with each other. In urban life, it is even more obvious and the symbolic meaning of urban public squares, the right consciousness and ideology on the billboards, and the distribution of urban buildings are all communicated to the residents through symbols. In the domain of education, as been stated above, people understand and construct the world through education. Then, to explore the relationship between urban culture and higher education becomes the discussion of their relationship with the symbol.

The symbolic interactionism provided inspiration for the research upon this issue. The American scholar Jonathan Turner (2001) has pointed out the significance of such interaction for social development, and according to him, class, nation, family, and religion are ultimately and merely the reflection of interaction between human beings. The society is ultimately composed of and maintained by the individuals action and interaction. The formation of urban culture space is the result of the interaction between the consciousness of social groups and material space of the city. On the one hand it is the interaction between different people and on the other hand that between human beings and its material existing environment. Symbol plays the role of mediator during this process. Social interaction produces and maintains social phenomena and one has to understand the former in order to comprehend the later. Evidently, educations mediation is needed during this process. The features of urban symbol space determine its relationship with higher education.

The originator of symbolic interactionism, G. H. Mead has given more inspiration in his researches on this issue. According to him, the interaction between different people is through the symbol as a mediator and on this basis he initiated the symbolic interactionism. Many social behaviors not only include the interaction between the physical bodies but also that between the conscious selves. During the stimulus-response process, human beings are very conscious of the responses they may provoke through their gestures. When a gesture has the same significance for the sender and receiver, it assumes meaning and becomes a symbol. Social significance is built upon the response to other peoples behaviors. The symbolic interactionism starts from the expression of logical meaning and appearance of self-consciousness and goes deep into the formation of social power and institutionalization, imbued with many modern social philosophical ideas. The response towards the symbol includes a whole proceeding of reactions toward the specific object in a specific environment, including awareness, perception, attention, attempt and action. The distinguishing between the symbol and the sign is a feature in the process. He defines the symbol as human beings significant gesture and the sign as animals non-significant gesture, making a distinction between human beings and animals. The understanding of symbols is the understanding of me by I. And I represent the freedom and creativity of the individual, enabling him to exist with self-consciousness. However, me represents the social aspect of the individual and is the performed attitudes towards other people. These attitudes become what I thinks of before taking action. The dialogue between I and me is exocentric and multidimensional. The socialization of the individual is to familiarize the individual with social communication through the mediation of language and other significant gestures (Ding, 2008).

To come back to the topic of this article with the inspiration from Mead, we find it very important and significant to explore the questions like how the urban symbolic space is extended, how the way of symbolic interaction has changed under such an influence and how such changes react upon higher education, with the ongoing internationalization of modern cities.

Some scholars have done researches upon the components and social cultural connotation of city symbols from different perspectives. Du Jin has pointed out that there are three levels in the symbolic system of urban space. They are the vocabulary level, syntax level and paragraph level. On the vocabulary level, there are city symbols composed of homogeneous elements. City symbols which consist of various kinds of elements with arbitrary organization are on the syntax level. On the paragraph level, city symbols are not only heterogeneous but also well organized. Different symbols on different level convey different meanings. The image symbol resembles the content it represents in term of their image; the indicative symbol shows causal relationship between his form and content but it takes logical reasoning to figure out what it refers to; the emblematic symbol has gotten rid of the causal relationship between form and connotation, becoming a kind of social tacit agreement. Therefore, the interpretation of such symbols must be on the basis of a profound understanding of the local history and culture (Duan, 2002). Then, it becomes obvious that, in such an order, there is a gradually separation between the significance of urban space and its expression form and this process is the interaction between the symbol and the subject. Education is produced in the city symbol by the separation of the symbols form and significance because its function of understanding and interpreting the city symbol is realized exactly through the comprehension, interpretation and construction of the city's history and culture.

Zhu W. Y. has pointed out in his researches the heterogeneous components of the urban symbol space,

The symbol space we referred to has 6 types: nomadic space (mythology), route space (religion), square space (science), territory space (history), street space (language) and dream space (art). To understand the city through symbol space, the urban space should also include the above-stated six types and the corresponding counterparts are the country park, the street, the square, the yard in the city, the street and the city park. (1995, p.102-103)

There is no doubt that it is a very inspiring research method to understand the cultural connotations of urban space, like mythology, religion, science and history and so on through its discrete components like the park, street and square and etc. However, what kind of city landscape is higher education, which plays a very important role in the development of modern city, correspondent to except for the forms of urban symbol space which mythology, religion, science and history and so on correspond to? This issue cannot be ignored in the researches on urban symbol theories and should be explored from the perspective of symbolic interaction because, in the continuity of the production of urban culture by symbolic significance, education plays a crucial role.

The way of interaction between city symbol and human being and their urban space has experience great change with the ongoing internationalization of the modern city. It is, to a certain degree, this kind of change that promotes the internationalization of higher education.

Firstly, the internationalization of higher education is produced by that of the city, the expansion of the domain of symbolic interaction and the separation, and even to some extent, the break between the form and significance of urban culture space.

With the internationalization of modern city and the rapid development of science and technology, human beings means of urban space construction and communication has experienced profound change. The symbolic interaction organizes peoples life in the broadest domain, bears the advanced culture and enables them to communicate. However, under such a background, peoples choice of behaviors becomes more complicated than before because representations of symbolic space which cross time and space start to enter into the everyday life of modern citizens. The most obvious feature is that symbolic interaction becomes more instant and its expression of the significance of urban space forms multivariate. That is to say the significance and form of symbolic expression, to a certain extent, has estranged. The replacement of significance becomes frequent and variant, making it difficult for people to understand the urban symbols. Against such a background, higher education as the stimulus for the symbolic interaction should play its due role. The interaction of symbols needs the educated to act as the interpreter of the significance of urban symbolic space in order to promote the representation of the urban symbols significance, construct cultural community in the city and then form distinctive urban culture. Traditional higher education obviously can't cope with the complexity of urban symbol in the cosmopolitan cities. The cosmopolitan city is in dire need of constructing the urban culture which is at the same time constant, energetic and significant for the continuity of tradition when it is experiencing the clash and fusion of native and foreign cultures. Under such conditions, higher education also has to be internationalized and its role of constructing urban culture space should be realized through shaping the subjects which create and understand the urban symbol space and the cognitive mode for symbolic significance.

Secondly, the internationalization of the city, the change of the way of symbolic interaction and the acquisition of the methods for the representation and signification expression of urban symbol space all help to produce higher education internationalization.

The internationalization of the city develops in parallel with new technologies, which develop and constantly change human beings way of life and the traditional symbolic interaction. Interaction between individuals has changed. In order to understand urban culture, human beings need to understand more about the whole city's culture tradition and new appearance through symbolic system of greater complexity. And even the individuals social status, roles and personalities are also represented by a certain aspect of urban symbol. The reason for such a change is that the virtualization of the comprehension of symbolic significance has appeared.

Zhu, Y. W. has pointed out in his researches on the evolutionary history of Western and Chinese symbol space that Chinese symbol space has experienced four stages, namely, nomadic space (mythology), territory space (history), street space (language), and dream space (art). By contrast, in the West, it has experienced nomadic space (mythology), route space (religion), square space (science) and dream space (art) (1995, p.77). Laying aside the difference in types and specific feature, in terms of its evolutionary sequence, it can be noted that on the on hand education is permeated in various types as stated above; on the other hand, higher education becomes the point where Western and Chinese culture converges in the internationalized modern cities.

The evolution and difference of the above mentioned symbolic spaces finally merge into modern internationalized education. Different from the cognitive mode of the visual symbols like the country park, city streets and city park, the fusion of modern Western and Chinese symbols happens in higher education in the modern cities and its cognitive and expressive mode become even more virtualized. This kind of virtualization is realized mainly through modern technologies. For instance, the popularization of the computer and internet in everyday life has given human beings new social experiences and provided them with a new and open platform for communication and activities. Peoples understanding of city symbols, to a certain extent, has endowed them with the modern ways of thinking. The indirect and vague symbolic interaction has satisfied many peoples need to escape from the reality and given them a sense of elusiveness. The causal relationship between the emblematic symbol and the objective world has completely broken down. Against such a background, higher education should shoulder its responsibility of controlling the symbols cognitive mode and in the internationalized cities the fusion of various kinds of symbol space types all needs the mediation of higher education. On the one hand, the representation of the symbol, whether in the direct way or through the virtual world of internet, need to be constructed by the educated; on the other hand, the communication of urban symbol significance, whether through traditional face to face or the virtual indirect ways, education itself is indispensible. Apparently, with the citys ongoing internationalization, the types of symbol space tend to homogenize and this appeals to the parallel internationalization of higher education as a ways of representing and communicating symbolic significance with the application of technologies, which will finally conduce the fusion of Western and Chinese elements in urban culture.

Thus, the symbol space is produced by the fusion of Western and Chinese culture in modern cities and at the same time its production is conducive to the internationalization of higher education. The implicitness, fluidity, continuity, identifiability and other feature of urban symbol space develops with the internationalization of the city and its education.

3. The Significance of Urban Symbol Space: An Influence upon the direction of the Development of the Urban Culture Construction and Higher Education Internationalization

As an invisible source of dynamism for higher education internationalization, urban symbol space in the modern internationalized cities plays a very important role in the construction of urban culture and the development of higher education and such role is represented by urban education symbol.

The richness, convenience and effectiveness of its signification, the symbol rapidly becomes the most common and important way of expression and thinking. Modern citizens rely more and more upon urban symbol space. Lefebvre has stated, those who use space will enable the world to change (2009, p. 193). In the internationalized cities, only those who understand and are able to use symbols in the urban culture space can change the world. And urban education symbol plays a crucial role in it, which is represented in the following aspects.

Firstly, urban culture continues through the construction of urban education space.

The city symbol is the feature which can represent the city's culture and the iconic thing which has inheritance value, gives very strong impression and evokes a sense of proud Many cities have such kinds of icons They have weathered the flowing of time, embody the city's soul, and gradually become the ineffaceable symbol of the city. They represent the culture, the fame and the generosity, spiritual power and the ecological environment of the city. To a large extent, they reflect the magnetism and the profoundness of the city, becoming its concise identification card. (Liu, 2008, p.112)

Education represents the profoundness of a city's culture through constructing education symbols with international significance such as the educational and cultural square which represent the development of the city's education internationalization, the public education facilities like library and e-reading rooms and the talents proficient in foreign languages and international cooperation who are the inheritors of urban culture and build culture space for themselves and their future generations.

Secondly, the gap between form and significance which is caused by the rapid change of the symbol is bridged through the construction of urban education symbol, promoting comprehensive development.

If everyone engages himself in coping with the significance of those abused symbols, he will tire himself to death. Thus, the citizens keep the principle of economy through compression. To be specific, it is to condense the symbolic system of a certain place and time, turning the three-dimensional into the two-dimensional. In this way, the various signifier and signified and the complex relationship between them are all simplified in this system in order to use the limited signifiers to refer to all the signified, at the same time, retaining all stable signified. (Yang, 2001, p.153)

As been stated above, the ultimate goal of education is to promote human beings comprehensive development and the form and significance of the symbol separated when the internationalization of the modern city speeds the process of symbolization, evoking in the modern citizens a sense of fragmentation and futility.

The complex and speedy change turn the scenes and messages received into fragmented and fluid pastiches. Then, the panorama becomes more and more elusive. Therefore, urban experience is on the one hand a sense of structural wholeness and on the other hand a fragmented disorder. (Wang, 1998, p. 300)

The construction of urban education symbol is on the one hand that of the urban landscape which is significant for education internationalization and on the other hand the establishment of the citizens symbolic cognitive mode, namely, infusing the symbolic cognitive mode which fits in with modern city internationalization into higher education. The latter process is just the above mentioned simplification of the signifying system. It adapts human beings to the development of the modern city, who in return accelerates the development of the city.

In summary, urban culture space promotes the internationalization of higher education in the way of symbolic interaction. From this perspective, we will have a more profound understanding of education: human beings culture is represented by his symbolization while the symbol is exactly the carrier of the content of education (Liu, 2008, p.14). Against such a background, the theoretical exploration of urban symbol space and its construction is of great practical significance.



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