The Interaction between Human Being and Urban Culture Space: One of the Motivations for Higher Education Internationalization

Abstract:Current researches on the motivation for the internationalization of higher education don't pay enough attention to its interrelationship with that of the city. Besides the economic and political incentives, modern urban culture, against the background of globalization, also plays an important role in motivating higher education internationalization. The separation which human being is confronted with and the appeal for the self-assurance of the citizens becomes an important motivation for higher education internationalization during the process of the mutual construction of human being and urban culture space.

Key words: urban culture space, higher education, internationalization, self-assurance


The internationalization of higher education is based upon that of the modern city. Obviously, researches upon it have neglected this point. Therefore, against the background of the city internationalization and from the perspective of the interaction between human being and urban culture space in the culture domain, exploring its cultural motivation is an effective way of approaching this issue and also an efficacious method for promoting human beings development and the construction of urban culture space.

1. The Interaction between Human Being and Urban Culture Space: A New Perspective for Researches on Higher Education Internationalization

At present, with the increasing pace of economic globalization and the practice of higher education internationalization, researches on its theory is also drawn attention to. The achievements of these researches mainly focus upon its significance, the developing trend of internationalization, roles of politics and economy in accelerating the progress of internationalization, introduction of experiences from western developed countries, China's position and policies, international students, impact of WTO, international education cooperation, the relationship between nationalization and internationalization and so on. The great majority of them are about the introduction of strategies and experiences in the western developed countries and those about its relationship with WTO is surging. Besides, heated discussions are provoked by its speeding growth in China, about the issues of the relationship between internationalization and localization, internationalization and nationalization, the strong and weak cultures.

Though the researches on such theories did have a series of achievements and promoted the progress of its practice to a certain extent, the exploration of the motivation behind it is scarce. Among the researches done on this issue, they mainly pivot around the political and economical incentives

As an unchangeable trend in the present world, globalization has given impetus to internalization of higher education, made higher education as an important part of international free trade, and promoted the extension of influence of for-profit sector of higher education. (Altbach & Knight, 2007 , p.1)

There some other scholars who even more obviously point out that the dynamic for higher education internationalization is mainly represented by the aspects like, economic interests, social environment, demand for international communication and cooperation, and the need for the development of higher education internationalization itself (Lu, 2008).

There is no doubt that all the factors referred to in the researches done in this field play a very important role in higher education internationalization. However, in actuality, several aspects are neglected: the first one is the carrier: the city; the second one is an important aspect of its simulations: culture; the third one is the interrelationship between the former two through the mediation of citizens. Mutual promotion of economic internationalization and urbanization, culture and the city, and the interaction between higher education and various factors accelerate its progress.

The intrinsic dynamism of a city's development is education. When people are well-educated (including social education, school education and family education and so on), they strive to change their social status, improve their living standards and fight for a better future. They make efforts in pursuit of distinction in different fields such as politics, economic, military and culture and so on, considering the need of the era and their own dispositions. During this process, they need to cooperate with each other, and thus gather together, build together and finally the city is formed. (Fu, n.d.)

In return, urbanization, especially the internationalization of cities and the development of urban culture, prompt new demands for higher education, namely, its internationalization. And during this process, the interaction between human being and urban culture plays a crucial role. Thus, to explore higher education internationalization from this perspective has great significance.

2. The Dynamic Relationship between Human Being and Urban Culture Space, and its Inspiring Significance

As is known to all, social life exists and distributes in space, and the whole society operates through space. The formation of urban culture and its historical development, to a certain extent, is inlaid in space. Harvey has claimed, to question what is space? is therefore replaced by the question how is it that different human practices create and make use of distinctive conceptualizations of space? relational space comes into its own as an important aspect of human social practice. An understanding of urbanism and of the social-process-spatial-form theme requires that we understand how human activity creates the need for specific spatial concepts and how daily social practice solves with consummate ease seemingly deep philosophical mysteries concerning the nature of space and the relationships between social processes and spatial forms. (Harvey, 1973, p.13-14)

Various kinds of spatial metaphors all show the relationship of mutual construction between human being and society, and it is the same case with urban culture space. Obviously, the dynamic relationship between human being and urban culture space is one of the motivations for the internationalization of higher education.

Just as Harvey believed, the dynamic relationship of space is effectuated by human being and his social practice. The internationalization of modern cities, to a large extent, depends upon the extension of other geographical spaces and this process mainly relies on the mobility of human being in the city.

This is related to human beings way of existence and its realistic significance in the context of modern urban culture. Just as the distribution of social life in society, human being exists in time and space.

The human beings materiality necessarily has a spatial and temporal position. In order to ensure the existence of them, that of the I should first be guaranteed and the precondition is that the subject becomes conscious of the body's state of existence: The skin which separates him from the outside world produces the distance between inside and outside, the interaction between here and there and this is the spatiality of existence; the body feels the change of the outside world and this is the temporality of existence. (Wang, 1998, p.237)

From this point of view, human beings existence depends upon that of the space and human beings self-assurance is the precondition for the latter.

From the perspective of the interaction between urban space and human being, the construction of human being and that of urban space always exist in contradiction. On the one hand, human beings construct urban space and cannot be separated from it. In other words, the geographical extension of urban space relies upon human beings existence and practice as the basis and precondition. It is because that urban space is the result of the interaction between human beings and their man-made environment and its structure as a whole is the place for human beings life. As the place where people gathered, it is through living together in the city that people know each other. This shows the relationship between human beings. Therefore, urban space is a social and public space shared by the residents. (Yu, 1998, p.18)

On the other hand, with the extension of urban geographical space, human beings and the urban space are sure to be distanced from each other. Many scholars have explored this issue from the perspective of Flneur. The appearance of Flneur is related to the researches upon the French poet Charles Pierre Baudelaire, designating those people who are able to wander, observe and experience life in every corner of the modern prosperous city. This concept is widely applied in sociology, anthropology and other domains. It is highly applicable in the researches on urban experience and urban space.

With the ongoing industrialization and the development of social economy and culture, people, in the cities, start to be aware of the new social phenomena and relationships and the residents familiar urban space experienced great change. In such circumstance, Harvey stated, Baudelaire would be torn for the rest of his life between the stances of flneur and dandy, a disengaged and cynical voyeur on the one hand, and man of the people who enters into the life of his subjects with passion on the other. (Harvey, 2003, p.15)

In other words, in Baudelaire's time, the urban space is experiencing great change and the modern city start to take shape.

With the example of the city arcades in the streets of Paris, Benjamin explored this issue. Designed for modern cities, the commercial arcade is a building and urban space which is constructed through modern high technology with materials like glass and steel. It is from the aspect of its space significance that Benjamin analyzed its cultural connotation as a part of the urban space structure. According to him, the arcade is the best symbol for Paris in 19th. It enables the fl�neurs to wander and loiter and they have enough time and space there to languidly appreciate the commodity and visualize the dreams etched upon it. The streets form a huge space of imagination and culture, encompassing various kinds of connotations, like the intuitive, experiential, social and cultural and so on. At the same time, during the city's modernization, as have stated above, the space formed by these commercial arcades enable the urban culture to be immensely tolerant and considerably egalitarian. In such urban space, everyone can roam the streets at any time yet each with his own secret. Evidently, Benjamin has long since been aware of it and as Harveys claim about Baudelaire, the connotation of urban culture space has already experienced profound change especially in terms of its influence upon human beings. The urban space and culture created by the arcades becomes thoroughly a space where modern urban culture and its significance appear. Apparently, this is not that kind of group formed by the gathering of friends, relatives and acquaintances in the pre-modern society but the group composed by people who are strange to each other and suddenly crammed into such a small space in modern society. (Benjamin, 1989, p25.)

The commercial arcade is only an example and with the ongoing urbanization the relationship between human being and urban culture start to be very complex.

A conspicuous representation is that the city road becomes broader, providing more convenient space for the people (or their means of transportation). More people move into the city and at the same time they become more mobile. The city residents have to adapt the rapid-paced life in which the interaction between people and space and the communication among people become frequent but instant. It is since then that the transformation of urban culture space start to be closely related to human beings development. In other words, people start to consider how to solve the problems which are brought by the construction and transformation of urban culture space during with the ongoing modernization of the city.

The background of the problem mentioned above is limited to the inception of modernity. With the maturity of urbanization, urban space starts to mature and extend on its own basis, namely, the speeding city internationalization. Against such a background, theoretical research becomes indispensible when people are confronted with separation and indecision during the initial stage of the modern city.

3. Human beings Need for Self-assurance in Modern Urban Culture Space

The modernization of urban space go hand-in-hand with that of the culture and during this process, people are confronted with the crisis of separation as mentioned above. During the initial stage of modern society, people are aware of such crisis but can do nothing about it. However, with the internationalization of the city, higher education, against the background of urban culture space diversification, becomes an effective strategy to solve the problem of human beings separation through keen attention and intervention. Furthermore, the rapid development of modern city increased the pace of higher education internationalization.

Baudelaires separation described by Harvey, to a certain degree, is the common status of modern citizens existence. Just as Guo Jun described, since such a flneur is purposeless and his observation on the street landscape, including the crowd, ancient building, the store, is more like the scrutiny and appreciation of a connoisseur, his relationship with the environment forms a sharp contrast with the masses utilitarian attitude toward everything in the era of commercial capitalism. At the same time, it is because such a person seems weirder and weirder in the rapid-paced modern city of rapid pace among the masses his image represents the residue of tradition which is evicted from social space by modernity. Thus, he is always arousing peoples nostalgia. (Guo, 2006, p.56)

The flneur is a reflection of the status of the modern citizens spiritual culture. On the one hand, the city is an imaged and egalitarian social space; on the other hand, people are reminiscent of the old culture value system, lost in the dilapidation and transformation of the old environment. The urban space people are familiar with is ephemeral and ungraspable, which, to a certain degree, evokes a sense of alienation. In modern cities, human being needs self-assurance.

This feature becomes even more prominent with the ongoing internationalization of the city. Zygmunt Bauman, a famous sociologist, has stated, It represents the world as fragments and episodes, with one image chasing away and replacing the one before, only to be replaced itself the next moment(1995, p.260). In modern society, human beings way of living has fundamentally changed and his experience and ability become fragmented, increasingly shriveled and even dysfunctional. Modern education, on the one hand, is the product of modern culture and acts as stimulation for the development of modern cities. On the other hand, the separation confronting human being during urbanization and internationalization helps to produce modern higher education and its internationalization. It is represented in the following aspects:

Firstly, the appearance of higher education internationalization is mediated by the alteration of the existing environment of urban culture space against the background of city internationalization.

The internationalization of modern city has brought great change to the existing environment of urban culture space and it is first represented by the speed of urban culture spaces replacement. The features of modern urban space shown through the material environment of modern urban space are newness, fluidity, and fastness and urban culture constructed on such basis is hardly comprehensible let alone congenial with people. Education is the best way of attaining constant culture identification and significance.

The appearance of boulevards greatly increased the speed. Modern people have experienced unprecedented high speed though their emotion may ranging from the excitement of the car swooshing on the strait lane and the anxiety of its higher speed. With the increase in speed and the overlapping of spaces, people more often sit in the cars and observe without moving his body to interact with the environment or any having any bodily touch with passers-by. Therefore, vision becomes the main sense people rely upon to acquire information and as a result other sense are dulled and deteriorated. Peoples sensory experience is reduced. (Wang, 2003, p.109)

Benjamins (1983) statement on the same issue is even more accessible and profound:

Someone who sees without hearing is much more uneasy than someone who hears without seeing. In this, there is something characteristic of the sociology of the big city. Interpersonal relationships in big cities are distinguished by a marked preponderance of visual activity over aural activities. The main reason for this is the public means of transportation. Before the development of buses, railroads, and trams in the nineteenth century, people had never been in situations where they had to look at one another for long minutes or even hours without speaking to one another. (p.69)

The fast speed breaks the urban culture space into pieces and we can't equate even those things which are accessible to human vision with the urban culture. Thus, the construction of urban culture space is the combination of individual experience, historical experience and city environment.

For modern internationalized cities, the existing environment of urban space is imbued even more with the modern citizens anxiety about their understanding of culture. On the one hand, the internationalization of the city has changed the material environment where people live and can have a better understanding of urban culture and, to a certain degree, people has lost the basis for such an understanding; on the other hand, the internationalized city with its new landscape inundates people with many unknown things and their cultural connotations. In order to solve the first problem, higher education should always be relied upon and education should be developed upon the basis of urban life. In order to solve the second problem, human beings need to have a culture psychology of stable structure, encourage the development of the city, and promote that of their own. And higher education internationalization is an effective strategy to achieve this purpose.

Secondly, human beings need for self-assurance in urban culture space helps to stimulate the internationalization of higher education. Human beings promote the development of modern culture space and their separation in urban culture space accelerates the development of higher education. The problem of modern life stem from: The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claims of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the technique of life.the nineteenth century demanded the functional specialization of man and his work; this specialization makes one individual incomparable to another, and each of them indispensable to the highest possible extent. However, this specialization makes each man the more directly dependent upon the supplementary activities of all others, An inquiry into the inner meaning of specifically modern life and its products, into the soul of the cultural body, so to speak, must seek to solve the equation which structures like the metropolis set up between the individual and the super-individual contents of life. (Simmel, 1950, p.409)

With the ongoing internationalization, the equilibrium between the personal and the transpersonal is paid more and more attention. The most prominent problem in the extension of urban culture space is how human beings find and assert themselves in the neon light of the city. In other words, human beings need to construct new ways of culture experience, and then promote their own development and extend modern urban culture space through higher education internationalization when the old urban culture space lost its significance for human beings self development.

Human beings always wish to know clearly their position and assure themselves in the environment at the same time. In other words, stable position is the necessary condition for human life. The environment is ever changing, even if it can't resonate with human beings and build cognitive mode for their survival. (Wang, 2003, p.109)

In internationalized cities, the environment is changing even faster, the need for building up self-assurance, sense of identification and cognitive mode and so on appeal for the accelerating pace of higher education internationalization which cultivates the subject of the city's construction, bridging the gaps between human beings and urban space in terms of its cultural significance.

Thirdly, the interaction between human beings and urban culture space guarantees the dynamism of higher education internationalization.

The relationship between human beings and urban culture space has various possibilities and modes.

The city exists as a series o f doubles; it has official and hidden cultures, it is a real place and a site of imagination. Its elaborate network of streets, housing, public buildings, transport systems, parks, and shops is paralleled by a complex of attitudes, habits, customs, expectancies, and hopes that reside in us as urban subjects. We discover that urban "reality" is not single but multiple, that inside the city there is always another city. (Chambers, 1986, p.183)

Streets, houses, public buildings and traffic systems and other material contents of the city change with a stunning speed and the ideas reflected by them alter correspondingly. And, obviously, the latter lags behind the former, which, to a certain extent, confuses the people. However, the positive significance of such change is apparent, namely, There always exists in a city another city, which means it harbors another possibility of cultural significance, and the need to realize and fathom this kind of possibility is the very dynamic which fuels the development of higher education. Thus, urban space is :No longer an artifact to be analyzed and becomes a kind of basis for experience and projection of consciousness. It invites the participants to play the game of signifier and signified (there is possibility of new spatial forms and significances hidden in the game). (Wang, 2003, p.110)

Urban culture space has the streets, houses, public buildings and traffic systems and so on as its signifiers and in order to understand the corresponding signified people should know the signifiers form of spatial significance. From the urbanization of the countryside to the internationalization of the city, the development of such a movement is always promoted, providing the constant and strong stimulation for higher education internationalization.

From the urbanization of the countryside to the internationalization of the city, the development of such a movement is always promoted, providing the constant and strong dynamism for higher education internationalization.

The interaction between human beings and urban culture space and its motivation for higher education internationalization have great practical significance. From the perspective of higher education internationalization, to sort out the cultural motivation for higher education and find its suitable form for the city's internationalization (or whether the internationalization of higher education is suitable in terms of the city's level of development) is crucial for adjusting the orientation and guaranteeing the efficacy of higher education internationalization. From the aspect of human beings development, as been stated above, the separation between urban space and human beings caused by the city's ongoing internationalization is an urgent problem to be solved. From the aspect of the construction of urban culture space, as an important means to retain human beings equilibrium, urban culture promotes the internationalization of higher education. The construction and development of these three aspects are closely related and they all focus upon the wholesome and free development of human beings, which is just the purpose of higher education internationalization and the construction of modern urban culture in this internationalized world.





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