The Isomorphism between the Subjects of Urban Culture Space and Higher Education Internationalization

Abstract: To explore the motivation for higher education internationalization from the perspective of urban culture space is fresh and novel. There is isomorphism between the subjects of urban culture space and higher education internationalization and thus the understanding of such isomorphism is the theoretical precondition for the researches on their interactivity. The subject constructs itself and its surrounding urban culture space, both spiritually and materially. On the one hand, it creates urban spiritual culture space for higher education internationalization and guarantees its historical continuity. On the other hand, it provides for it the material basis, such as, the citizens who receive internationalized higher education, the city landscape, institutions for scientific researches and art, and urban activities, which, in return, react upon the subject and urban culture space.

Key words: Cultural urban space, higher education internationalization, subject, isomorphism

There is no doubt that human beings material and spiritual life is inseparable from space and almost all the everyday words have close relationship with it. With the expansion of the city, the development of modern geographical culture, the progress of cultural and educational theory, the researches on space theories and the subjects related to them become new sources of inspirations. However, at present, it is rather hard to give a unified definition of space. The researches on space theories gradually experience a geography-to-culture turn since the inception of those conducted in the field of art, philosophy and geography. Since the space theory covers a broad domain, this thesis explores the isomorphism between the subjects of higher education internationalization and urban culture only from the perspective of culture space in terms of the subjects spirituality and materiality.

1 The Breakthrough in the Researches on the Interactivity between Urban Culture space and Higher Education Internationalization

It gradually draws the attention of the scholars in China that higher education has a close relationship with the city's development and expansion of urban culture space. In A Research Review on the Interrelationship between Urbanization and the Development of Higher Education, Zhu and Lin has given a panoramic view of the researches on the relationship between higher education development and urbanization, and according to them,

Urbanization and the development of higher education are mutually motivated. There are more researches on the interrelationship between urbanization and higher education development from the perspective of their interaction, relatedness and the latters positive role in advancing the formers quality and competitiveness. However, there is no systematic theoretical model and structure concerned with the relationship between urbanization and higher education development. As for empirical researches, the main research achievements center on the numerical relationship among GDP, university enrollment rate and urbanization, while those on the relationship among its structure, quality and etc. are comparatively less.(2006, p.64)

Therefore, more discussions should pivot around the relationship between them and the reason for the formation of such relationship and their interactive model. Whats more important is that China is experiencing the urbanization of the country and internationalization of the city. And the latter compared with the former has a more profound impact upon higher education. Thus, the change of urban culture has profound influence. From this perspective, a very fertile research field, namely the mutual relationship between urban culture and higher education internationalization, is neglected in most of the researches on urbanization and higher education. As been stated above, to a certain degree, city and its surrounding elements exist in the form of space, and thus space theory can be very effective for the research on urbanization and higher education internationalization. And this article holds that the theoretical precondition for the study of this problem is the isomorphism between their subjects and the interaction between the expansion of urban culture space and higher education.

2 The Subject that Builds up the Urban Spiritual Culture Space: the Spiritual Culture Medium of Higher Education Internationalization

The construction of the urban spiritual culture space is not a metaphysical concept. The urban spiritual culture space has its own structure. Moreover, all social phenomena related to it (including higher education) and abstract concepts which attempts to understand such phenomena have their corresponding historical and geographical structure. It is the subjects activities of spiritual culture that accomplish the construction of this kind of historical structure. As for urban spiritual culture space, On the one hand, it (urban spiritual culture space) circulates deposits and accumulates all its products of urban spiritual in the former stages. On the other hand, it is the culture model built upon the basis of the corresponding material and spiritual conditions at present (Liu, 2007, p.19). Therefore, as a spiritual element, the urban spiritual culture space, acts as a unique humanistic element of urban spatial structure, is produced historically and develops together with human society. Its objectified materialization and immaterial manifestation have both recorded the human beings spiritual pursuit for himself. It is an advanced manifestation of the citys spatial structure and an expression of the interaction between human beings material and spiritual activities it is composed of dimensions like, historical space of urban traditional culture, the diversified present space of urban contemporary culture and the expanding space of the urban future culture. As a cultural form which comprehensively embodies human beings spiritual pursuit, it undergoes historical contemplation through the subject, and promotes the interactivity between the city's traditional and contemporary culture. In this way, the gap between the contemporary and traditional culture is bridged and historical space of traditional urban culture is produced, breaking the limitation of time and space. (Chen, 2008, p.91)

As a result, the subject constructs and integrates the urban spiritual culture space by mediating among the history, the present and the future. Furthermore, through the activities of spiritual culture, he reacts upon the city's material culture which is also a constitutive part of urban culture space. Then, the pursuit of spiritual culture becomes the primary dynamic for its construction.

The Thirdspace theory of the American scholar Edward W. Soja has also thoroughly expounded the subject's constructive role in spiritual culture space. According to Soja, we should not only connect the real and imagined geography but also step into the third space which exceeds the binary opposition between the subject and object. The so-called Third space is the dialectic between society and space in the domain of his proposed trialectics of spatiality, historicality and sociality. The Thirdspace is closely related to the so-called trialectics, which, according to Soja, is a mode of dialectical reasoning that is more inherently spatial than the conventional temporally-defined dialectics of Hegel or Marx (1996, p.10) Then, In contrast to dialectics, Soja identified three moments (not two), each of which is supposed to contain the others. Soja's purpose was to insist on the importance of the third term in order to defend against any binary reductionism or tantalization (Gregory, 2009, p.776). Accordingly, the so-called Third space is. A space produced by processes that exceed the forms of knowledge that divide the world into binary oppositions it both contains binary ways of thinking about space but also exceeds them with a lived intractability to interpretative schemas that for potentially emancipator practices. (Johnston, 2000, p.753-754)

With the development of the modern city, the subject, space, society and history, to a certain degree, exist in trialectics, which enables the Thirdspace theory, to become possible to a certain extent.

Thus, the roles of subject in the urban spiritual culture space can be understood from two aspects: firstly, the subject plays a positive role in its historical construction; secondly, such construction is mediated by trialectics or, to a certain degree in Thirdspace. The subject of higher education, which is an important part of the spiritual culture of the city, promotes its internationalization also in these two ways in modern urban culture space.

Firstly, the subject is the mediator between modern urban spiritual culture space and higher education internationalization in terms of the mutual influence of their spiritual driving forces. Higher education internationalization happens in a certain spiritual culture context, and it is the subject that provides such a context. However, the subject, after all, exists in the modern urban spiritual culture space. As a result, on the one hand, modern urban spiritual culture space influences higher education internationalization through the subject. Such influence is especially obvious with the development and internationalization of modern city when the urban spiritual culture space assumes more aspects of internationalization. On the other hand, higher education helps to form urban spiritual culture space. The internationalized higher education profoundly changed the subjects social condition and ways of thinking and internationalization leaves its traces on many aspects of the modern urban life including urban linguistic environment, living environment, urban public place, the work, and the related urban culture. Modern philosophy believes that space is formed, to a certain extent, by the distance between the subject and object. From this perspective, the mutual influence between modern urban spiritual culture and higher education internationalization is the result of their distance and their mutual effects are due to the existence of the subject which acts as the bearer of spiritual culture.

Secondly, the subject guarantees the historical continuity of the modern urban spiritual culture space and higher education. The continuance of modern urban spiritual culture from the history and the present to the future produced the historical space of urban spiritual culture. History and culture play a very important role in the city's internationalization. The characteristics of a city's culture and even the individuals behavior share the prominent features of the historicity in this area. Such historicization stimulates the extension of the urban spiritual culture space and, at the same time, the subject who realizes such extension is deeply influenced during this process.

As a manifestation of the city's spirit, the modern urban spiritual culture space promotes human beings self-awareness and self-education through the expansion of historical space. There is no doubt that higher education plays a crucial role in it. Before the cities in China become internationalized, higher education expands urban spiritual culture space through the construction of subjects. With the ongoing internationalization of the city, that of the higher education follows; the subject embraces the resultant changes; urban spiritual culture space expands further, transcending the constraint of time. If the subject of the traditional higher education reacts up urban spiritual culture space only through the expansion of historical space, the extension of the subject under the influence of internationalization enable the modern urban spiritual culture space to expand in the horizontal dimension, namely in various domains.

Thirdly, in the thirdspace, the subject plays a pivotal role in the interactions between higher education internationalization and the multivariate extension of modern urban spiritual culture space. According to the thirdspace theory, in the modern urban space, new things appear everywhere and they disturb the order of the old mainstream culture. If the interrelationships among higher education, the city's internationalization, and the urban spiritual culture space and so on are observed from a traditional dialectic perspective, the problems cannot be solved. In other words, traditional urban spiritual culture space, through the interaction between the subject and higher education internationalization, produces thirdspace, namely the expanded space from the original space itself. The crux in sorting out the relationships among these elements is the understanding of the crucial significance of the subjects role as the pivot.

3 The Subject of the Construction of Urban Space of Material Culture: The Material Mediator of Higher Education Internationalization

Space, as the representation and mediator of the relationships among the various social beings, is not merely the continuation and extension of spiritual culture but it is closely related to social reality and the material aspect of the society. The ideas on urban material culture space pay more attention to the materiality which human beings urban cultural life is based upon. This kind of materiality, on the one hand, includes the materiality of the human body and its construction of the space. On the other hand it also includes the materiality of the nature produced and observed by human beings and those things related to it. Briefly speaking, space is the product of human beings active practice and to a certain degree stimulates their development and the construction of the subject.

The urban material cultures role in the construction of the subject is manifested everywhere and Lefebvres analysis on the space structure has given profound inspiration for the exploration of this issue. Lefebvre believes that space is social product (1991, p.26). There are three levels of production, namely, spatial practice, representation of space, and representational spaces (1991, p.33). Spatial practice enunciated the way human beings create, use and feel the space, the human behaviors in this space, and the consequence of such behaviors (structure of space) which includes the results of producing, using, controlling and changing this space. Representation of space is conceptualized space, the space of scientists, planners, urbanists, technocratic subdividers and social engineers, Conceptions of space tend, with certain exceptions to which I shall return, towards a system of verbal (and therefore intellectually worked out) signs(1991, p.38). Thus, representation of space implicates the ways of representing this space, including its outlook and significance and the instrumental spaces such as maps, math, social project and city plan which are produced through knowledge and logic. The representational space is the space as directly lived through its associated images and symbols, and hence the space of inhabitants and users, but also of some artists and perhaps of those, such as a few writers and philosophers, who describe and aspire to do no more than describe. This is the dominatedand hence passively experienced space which the imagination seeks to change and appropriate. It overlays physical space, making symbolic use of its objects. Thus representational spaces may be said, though again with certain exceptions, to tend towards more or less coherent systems of nonverbal symbols and signs. (Lefebvre, 1991, p.39)

Human beings practical activities that produce, use, control and change the space play a crucial role in the production of urban material culture space. The relationship between the production and extension of urban material culture space and higher education internationalization, to a certain degree, conforms to the three levels of space enunciated by Lefebvre in terms of its materiality.

Firstly, the subject produces the urban material culture space in which higher education internationalization develops. The urban material culture space is the material basis of urban culture, including the city residents as the subject, the landscape, public places, and institutions for art or scientific researches which shape the taste of urban culture space and so on. It is also the material basis of the development, characteristics, and resources of urban culture. Furthermore it evinces the features of the city's spiritual culture. It is easy to see how the subject produces material culture space from the following aspects:

The first aspect is the city residents who receive excellent internationalized higher education. The residents are the subjects who use the urban culture space and they are also part of the urban culture landscape. As the physical human beings, people of diverse age groups, different genders and educational backgrounds make up the city's considerably stable social strata; their daily life forms the backdrop of urban culture and their demand for higher education increases with the speeding urbanization. The stratification of the residents as bodily individuals directly influences higher education internationalization.

The second aspect is the city landscape which has its connotations and unique styles. The city has produced rich urban material culture during with the ongoing urbanization and internationalization. The city's rocks, mountains, grasslands, trees, rivers, and also its buildings, places for work, culture squares, statues, artistic squares, means of transportation, and apparels of the pedestrians and etc. all reflect the mood and aesthetics of the city's residents. The landscape is the material representation of the taste of the city's culture and also the demand for the extension of urban culture space. It is partially the product of education and in return influences education because higher education determines the formation of urban culture space and the subject's way of producing material culture determines how the significance of space is produced.

The third aspect is the city's institutions for art or scientific research which are directly related to higher education. The existence of these institutions reflects the development of the city and its higher education. The city's internationalization spurs the development of these institutions on to meet the international standard and the prosperity of science and art invigorates its urban culture space.

Secondly, the subject represents the material demand for and achievement of higher education, and effectuates the representation of material culture space. As been stated above, the representation of space is to ensure the relationship between things and groups of people in space through knowledge and logic. The interrelationship between the subject, urban spiritual culture space and higher education internationalization is mentioned above and the urban material culture space is exactly represented by the constant extension of urban spiritual culture space. For the current status of higher education internationalization, this kind of representation mainly guarantees the horizontal, or international, extension of culture space without damaging its historical continuity. Just as Lefebvre said, both city plans and social projects are the representations of the material demand for the higher education. The city's internationalization enables this kind of representation to be embodied on two levels: the first level is that higher education internationalization has the educational cooperation, recruitment of foreign students and induction of foreign teachers and so on as its basic material conditions; the second level is that the ideas of higher education internationalization needs to be practiced by the subject in social culture through spiritual culture space.

Thirdly, higher education internationalization permeates into the subjects everyday life, constructing and extending urban material culture life. This process is also what Lefebvre called representational space, and it is the space of life with significance and symbols, which reproduce and change with time. Certainly, it is the subject that occupies this imagined space. The subject understands higher education and its internationalization through a more abstract way, namely symbols or signs. In other words, higher education and its internationalization influence the subjects thoughts and behaviors which change with time and finally promote the development of urban material culture.

In summary, the subject plays a very importance role in the construction of urban culture space. Obviously, the article only does theoretical research from a cultural perspective and intends to invite critical suggestion, hoping to provide theoretical guidance for more complex empirical researches which pivot around the interaction between culture space and higher education internationalization and emphasizes the role of the subject as the mediator.


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Lefebvre, Henri. (1991). The production of space. (D. N. Smith, Trans.). Oxford, England, Britain: Basil Blackwell.

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