Transforming the Art of Conversation
BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 17 September 2012
by Anthony Judge – TRANSCEND Media Service
Conversing As the Transformative Science of Development
In a period of multiple global crises — with more foreseen — it is worth asking what skills might be usefully cultivated. It is increasingly evident that every form of claim and blame can be formulated. Many offer remedies — readily seen as lacking credibility by others. Faith in governance and authority has been abused and it is indeed questionable whether society is “governable” in any desirable sense of the term (Abuse of Faith in Governance, 2009; Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? 2011).
Despite urgent appeals for “confidence-building”, consensus of appropriate quality and scope is increasingly elusive (The Consensus Delusion: mysterious attractor undermining global civilization as currently imagined, 2011). The question, especially for individuals, might be framed as to what is meaningfully possible other than “nothing” (Way Round Cognitive Ground Zero and Pointlessness? 2012).
Strangely, however disastrous the circumstances, “conversation” continues to be possible in many forms — even in the absence of “confidence”. It could then be asked whether there are unexplored modalities and insights associated with conversation — perhaps in the light of speculation on how it might be understood in the distant future. In a period of innovation of every kind, what innovation might be imagined in conversation? Is it possible that this might enable more fruitful ways of engaging with the world — if only for the individual? How fruitfully radical could such innovation be?
It is curious that the global crises occur in a period when many remark on the emergence of a global knowledge-based society. This would appear to imply forms of “global conversation” of which there are arguably many indicators (social networking, international conferences, etc). In the light of the crises, it is appropriate to ask whether these endeavours can be considered “adequate” to collective engagement with the challenges — however, courageous they may be and whatever the enthusiasm they elicit.
A “knowledge-based” society can be readily understood as being based upon the dynamics of “knowledgeable conversation” — effectively emerging from those dynamics. In a period of crisis, when structures and processes fail, and resources are lacking, fruitful conversation might then be upheld as a vital key to survival — and to thrival. It may even be more valuable than “martial arts”, however strategic their use.
It is readily assumed that there is little to be learned with respect to conversational intercourse. Everyone can engage in it — as with sexual intercourse, to which it can be considered as metaphorically related. No licence or authorization is required. The following argument explores the possibility that there may be other modes of conversation in which individuals and groups can fruitfully engage in this period. In particular it raises the question as to whether there may be as yet poorly explored ways of enabling transformative conversation.
For those who readily believe they have “no future”, perhaps living permanently in slums or refugee camps, or with no prospect of employment, transformative conversation remains a real possibility. The more fortunate may be inspired by the encouragement to “enjoy it while you can”, as proposed by James Lovelock (The Vanishing Face of Gaia: a final warning: Enjoy It While You Can, 2009). However, even “when you cannot”, there will still be the opportunity for conversation — potentially transformative.
The approach here follows from earlier explorations (Enabling a 12-fold Pattern of Systemic Dialogue for Governance, 2012; Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue: Collection of papers and notes, problems and possibilities on the new frontier of high-risk gatherings concerning social development, 1991; Conference Transformations: maturing the reflective, focusing and transformative power of large-group conferences, especially in response to conditions of social upheaval, 1982).
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.