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Asynchronous Dialogue Blog



I am interested in dialogue - because we live in language it is always verging on the asynchronous. This is to say nothing of email, blogs, social media, online school, etc. So I retain the name.



Updated: 2016-06-22T01:30:40.522-07:00

 



Hermeneutics & Asynchronous Dialogue

2014-05-10T11:12:21.905-07:00

A recent conversation with a colleague caused me to make a connection that I have not made (and in retrospect is obvious!) between the general project of understanding and the nature of dialogic involvement in the process of coming to an understanding. My assumption in characterizing "asynchronous dialogue" has been that we are attempting to have a dialogue across time and space via a computer mediated technology. What I failed to connect was that this is a process that is still at its most basic one of a person reading a text. And, if, as text it is open to the history and tradition implicit in hermeneutic interpretation and analysis then those techniques can be used in a typical discussion board asynchronous conversation.And as I write this I am not sure if the systems are analogous. For example, if person A writes text "a" to person B. Person B writes back to Person A with text "b" there is in my view an implicit understanding that person A is anticipating what person B will say beyond their text "b". When I am reading (for example) the work of GH Mead I am reading the text "m" from person M but in this case person M is dead. What does this mean for my interpretation of "m"? In fact how should I understand my interpretation over and against my anticipated response?If I am reading a post off of a discussion board from Person A who is alive if would seem to figure in my interpretation of text "a". My response to text "a" in this case will anticipate (perhaps) a response from Person A. Where is my anticipated response in the case of Mead and text "m"?  My textual response to text "m" is perhaps for other people (perhaps fans of person M)? So what's the difference? How does asynchronous dialogue as I have been interpreting it differ from textual hermeneutics?  I think I have been more interested in what my asynchronous interlocutor says (or will say) rather than fully engaging my understanding in what my reading adds to her writing of a specific text (e.g., message). In trying to figure this out I am thinking that Taylor (2002) has some helpful ideas. His view in contrasting knowledge with understanding or scientific knowing (Erklarung) from hermeneutic involvement (Verstehen) is that they differ fundamentally. Understanding (in direct contrast to knowing), according to Taylor, has three key methodological components. First, it is bilateral. Second, it is party dependent (or, as I read this situated), and third, it generally requires a revision of goals as the process goes on. This is because one's interlocutor "talks back". From Taylor's perspective this is true generally and covers the frozen or material objects of scientific investigation as well as the "text" in a normal or interpretive/hermeneutic reading. However this is where it gets confusing. How exactly does the frozen text take the place of a live interlocutor?So now I am thinking of two related strands. First is the relationship between knowledge and understanding from the tradition of European philosophy with roots in German Idealism and second is the relationship between subject and object as interpreted by American pragmatists – particularly Dewey and Mead. Mead (1934) suggests that the development of the object is gradual and carried out in a long evolutionary process. His primary account of the “act” (Mead, 1938) indicates that the memory (how I roughly interpret Mead’s “attitude/perception” moment of the act) of the organism allows it to act such that “the later stages of the experience itself can be present in the immediate experience which influences them” (Mead,1934, p. 87). These “later stages of the experience” are the built up repertoire of possible responses to stimuli that have become generalized as an “attitude”. Mead (1934) tells us that “What is given at the outset is determined by the attitude to what is to come later” (p. 86). What is interesting to me about this explanation of purposeful action (responding to a stimulus prospectively or anticipating the appropriate response prior to the resp[...]



Interlude

2013-11-19T15:28:19.924-08:00

So here it is many years later and I am still thinking about dialogue. The asynchronous part is not as compelling as it used to be but it still matters. I think now my understanding of time has matured a bit so that I can see the truth in claiming that all speech is asynchronous in reference to interlocutors. We all have our own perspective and our own position. Of course the synchrony we experience is qualitatively very real and being proximal to an other in conversation or dialogue is synchronous. The asynchronous part is still vexing. I am surprised that in all these years of rapid innovation there is still very little of note happening in asynchronous technology. I remain hopeful that this will once again matter and people will build applications and tools to bridge synchronous and asynchronous experiences.
On a more current note and related to the above I speculate that indeterminacy is related to determinacy much as synchronous communication is related to asynchronous communication. As we write and record (and otherwise represent) our speech and thought it becomes real in a way that our discursive jabbering does not - or maybe I should say "real" as much as I should say substantial or manifest. This manifest speech is then frozen in time - indexed to a particular time and place but serving to "message" interlocutors at any other time and place. So we are now asynchronous.
If I were to think more about the existential and phenomenological nature of dialogue I would have to say that asynchronous dialogue is a nonsensical phrase. But I still don't really know what I am talking about.




2009-10-28T08:52:16.313-07:00

An amazing aspect, to me, of dialogue in general and talking via mediated asynchronous spaces in particular is that our normal and typical standards and expectations for communication are generally upheld. And these expectations are a complex lot. I have been reading recently in the area of social identity theory, social categorization theory, and optimal differentiation theory. These theories all have in common the academic study of how, when, and even why our identities and behaviors change and morph across group and social boundaries. How am I in my 'in group' and how is that related to how I 'am' in relation to other groups? How do I talk to my spouse and how do I talk to a blog? Where is the 'me' in these conversations? I come back to the main principle of ecological psychology - the affordance. The affordance is (loosely put) an opportunity for action. It is a way of talking about the very postmodern notion that who and what I am is as much the result of my extended environmental self as it is my compacted personal private self. And so I speak through the twists and turns of these relationships.




2008-03-23T12:40:27.015-07:00

Now more than ever....

As I reflect on the past few years and the growth of synchronous technologies involving social networks.... I am struck by how lame interfaces like Blackboard really are. There is very little that I can see happening in the development of meaningful asynchronous technologies. Text and graphics, video & audio are all obviously necessary and good things. But the subjective and unarticulated feeling of being connected is also important. I have been working on an idea that will extend both reputation and awareness into the asynchronous realm. I am particularly interested in 'online' learning applications and situations.




2006-05-21T09:10:13.950-07:00

Communication is a plastic word (Poerksen, 1988). This means, roughly, that the word promises a lot but delivers little. The word means many things to many people in many contexts. Spending time making provisional definitions can take whole books, degree programs, and/or study. Relationship is also a plastic word. Unfortunately both of these general ideas are necessary precursors to my talking about or thinking about asynchronous dialogue. I am interested in asynchronous dialogue because I think it represents one of the primary opportunities that distributed information systems offer. Asynchronous internet based communications is an architecture that can afford the collaboration and coordination necessary to maintain local and global coherence. I understand synchronous and asynchronous as extremes of a continuum. The extremes are concepts that have no ‘real’ referent. The in-between-ness of these extremes do have reference to experience. Time is relative. Certainly this must mean that proximity (distance) is a fundamental parameter of synchronous/asynchronous time. (t=d/r). Consequently there is little reason to believe that distance somehow determines an absolute distinction between now and not now. This claim is what fuels my interest in understanding how to afford meaningful asynchronous dialogue. How far can we remove ourselves in time from a conversation or dialogue and still have a conversation or dialogue? But I am straying from the primary intent of this post. Before I explore the time structure of asynchronous dialogue I want to look more closely at the idea of communication and relationship. I will pretend that communication implies a coherent perturbation. What is that, one might ask? Imagine an entity with a boundary. On one side of the boundary is everything that is ‘not’ the entity and on the other side is everything that ‘is’ the entity. Further imagine that we live in world with entities of various types that all share this property of inside/outside boundedness. Even though this perspective is but a perspective (not a definitive or complete explanation of phenomena) it nonetheless can serve us well in coming to understand the ideas of communication and relationship. (note: it is only our ‘consciousness’ or ability to see ourselves as objects that gives us the opportunity to see that a boundary is ‘two-sided’. This is the essence of the self/other distinction.) Energy and movement are related. I would like to say that energy is movement but I am not sure what that really means. At the level of organisms movement and energy are related through time and the relationship between time and experience. From really slow movement (matter) to really fast movement (energy) we participate as movement in movement. This reflexive conundrum is what I understand the ‘observer problem’ to be. We are that which we perceive. The architecture of this conundrum can be seen as the body/mind of human being. That is, looking carefully at how we describe our own form can help us understand its relationship to form in general and the possible origins of our human form. It seems to me that understanding this (the form issue) will help us understand the interaction of forms (a communication like activity). Movement is the essence of communication. Mead’s social gesture (Mead, 1934) posits the creation of mind and self out of the coordinated gestures of social groups. The conversation of gestures is, from Mead’s perspective, a fundamental property of organisms. This conversation is a way to understand the evolutionary movement of individual organisms in their (our) living. We seek or effort after both value and meaning (Reed, 1996). The seeking after value consolidates gains in the service of survival. The seeking after meaning opens up horizons and the possibility of survival and new learning. Our movement through the environment is a necessity. The conversation of significant gestur[...]




2005-04-19T10:21:51.633-07:00

Closer is better?

There is a lot of activity these days about trying to make distance education (and distance technologies in general) as much like face to face as possible (as if we have a great record of communication, transformation, and harmony in our face to face lives!). Underlying these efforts is the (I think) unconscious and unreflective assumption that what we do in our face to face encounters is unproblematic, knowable, and preferable. I think that a fundamental issue that isn't much talked about is the basic definition of what learning is - or even more broadly communication.

I recently came across an article that used the term 'bandwidth' to describe the relationship between 'student' and 'teacher' in relation to issues in distance education. To me this characterization assumes the adoption of the 'conduit' metaphor in coming to understand communication - that is, the transmission of content from one brain to the other. I believe that our relationships are more strange than that. Much of my thinking is informed by Maturana, autopoiesis, and a biological/systems interpretation of our phenomenological experience.If, as I believe, we are not so much 'informed' by a communication message as we are 'perturbed' then the notion of distance becomes less Euclidian and more Einsteinian (so to speak).

By this I mean that the 'length' issue isn't as important as the 'like' issue. How much are we 'like' or 'familiar' with our interlocutors? Do we have a basis, need, or motivation to be in this relationship? Obviously this is part of the basic set up of standard educational contexts - many students would probably not be in school if they weren't somehow incented to be there through either force (K-12) or fear (post secondary).

My point is that the question of motivation to stay in relationship is more important than the physics of communication in either proximal or distal settings. I think we conflate these two issues in many discussion of distance in education. There is no question that being face to face with someone - in each other's presence, is our natural and adapted state - however, simple letter writing has historically extended & deepened relationships in a way that has satisfied and motivated people for a long time.I think that what is happening to education with the advent of the web and all its bells and whistles is that it is exposing core inconsistencies in our rhetoric about teaching and learning.

In my opinion the 'factory model' of education doesn't work to educate - it works to instruct and train. For much of instruction and training (say learning to be a physician) it is critical that we be proximal to our patients, mentors, and other necessary personnel. For other types of instruction where simulations will do as well (for example Air Traffic Control school) we can work and learn virtually. As anyone that has taught pre-school or elementary school (or their own children) knows - we don’t so much ‘instruct’ kids into learning how to read as we ‘love’ them into it.

Good elementary education is based on relationships of trust, respect, and love. Education, in my view, remains apart from these discussions. Education is about relationships that result in transformation. Mutual transformation. I think that too many of our professional educators believe that it is only a one way street. Distance education is possible and powerful if people are open to being in dialogue. In fact, the technology may well afford a greater and greater incidence of this type of transformative relationship.

However, I don't think it will be pioneered by our current professional cadre of 'educators'. They (we) think we know the answers. It appears that we are really just learning how to ask the right questions.

Chris





2005-01-02T21:34:01.133-08:00

Commitment & Asynchronous Dialogue (AD)

It occurs to me that another key factor in successful ongoing AD is a commitment to both the process and to one another. In some ways this begs the question of dialogue and may be AD's undoing in any but select environments (e.g., organizations or virtual teams that somehow have a vested interest in transcending the standard 'information only' discourse of traditional communications.






2004-08-31T20:15:59.623-07:00

Dialogue as a function of perception?

I recently finished a paper where I was thinking about ecological psychology, William James, and Mary Parker Follett. My basic thesis was that a theory of direct perception (ala James Gibson) is a prerequisite for participatory democracy. By extension this would also suggest that dialogue will happen best when we are grounded in this 'theory' of perception.

The logic goes like this. Theory of perception > epistemology > social and theoretical frameworks > language > conversation > dialogue.

If we change our theory of perception we can change the world!

The reason a theory of perception is so important is not only because it allows us to make sense of the world but also because we feedback our experiences to our basic beliefs and thereby ramify or change them. But if our experience of the world precludes any change in the way we experience the world then we will only ramify and elaborate our already solipsistic view (in the case of the theory of indirect perception - that is, a little person in my brain that sorts all the stimulus out and creates elaborate computational models of the world). And even if there is no 'little person' (we are so much more sophisticated these days) we still have huge problems if we continue to believe that we create representations of the world in our minds that correspond to features of the world.

Direct perception has us encountering the world directly - physically, emotionally, and mentally.
So, I am going to be working on this. My question for now is: How is dialogue affected by our beliefs about perception? And, do beliefs and theories of perception affect us unconsciously so as to affect the way we think, reason, and communicate?

I think this is an important area for consideration. If anyone reads this and wants to read the paper about these ideas email me and I will send you the paper.

Chris





2004-08-18T11:50:51.156-07:00

Navigation & Meaning

I am currently involved with a group from Gonzaga University in a collaboration for our upcoming work at the Follett Conversation in Boise, Idaho. For that conference we are exploring the educational underpinnings of participatory democracy. We are looking at what an educational system designed around the goal of preparing people for participatory democracy would look like.

I believe that the art and practice of dialogue is a necessary component of participatory democracy and that an educational system should focus on that component. In thinking about this I am beginning to realize that the phrase 'teaching dialogue' is perhaps a misnomer. Which makes me wonder can we learn things that cannot be taught? Certainly we can't teach things that cannot be learned?

Anyway, I am beginning to think about how perception and awareness as viewed from an organic psychological perspective informs our habits of mind at a more abstract conceptual level.

For example, how is navigation on an interface related to understanding the content that one is supposed to 'experience'? Obviously navigation is important to "get there" but how important is it in terms of what you "see" when you get there? Are there ways to design an interface such that the way we navigate helps us "see" the content presented from a conceptual perspective?

For example, is a series of linked drop down menus (a drill down approach) better for understanding a 'policy document' or would a set of nested ovals with words in them work better? And/or is a 'tip' from a colleague about the importance of a particular issue the thing that motivates attention and engagement (pre-requisites for dialogue in my view)?

This relates to practicing democracy through dialogue if we see the dialogue as the interface (or maybe I should call it the 'navigable interface') and democracy as the content or purpose of being in the space - the navigable interface space....

So, much as my physical environment affords - say... walking so my navigable interface affords dialogue. And much as my physical environment 'contains' the objects of my desire so the navigable interface space contains the participatory threads and connections that make up a 'democracy'?

So, I think this is what I mean.

hmmmm.






2004-08-18T11:32:15.506-07:00

What time is it?

Asynchronous is a funny word. So is synchronous. They seem so intuitively graspable. However, upon reflection we see a lot of problems crop up. I think the major problem is with the root word synchrony. What is the now?

Harry Heft in his great book on Ecological Psychology (Ecological Psychology in Context: James Gibson, Roger Barker, and the Legacy of William James's Radical empiricism. 2001. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, New Jersey) explores this concept in detail. He has taught me that what we count as the 'now' or the 'present' is more like a horizon (as in phenomenology) that contains both past and future components. What we see right 'now' for example is not what is happening right 'now' but is the result of an exploratory perceptual synthesis that uses invariant features of the environment (any environment) to orient ourselves to the whole of what we experience.

Which is to say that dialogue removed from immediate face to face contact is an opportunity to stretch perception. And, like any technology that allows us to stretch stuff, it will have its uses. So, to extend the ecological psychology metaphor, if we use invariants in the visual environment to see the whole then we can use the multiple invariant perspectives of asynchronous communication to see a whole as well. Maybe a bigger whole than that which is achieved in a face to face format.

The relationship between perception, perceptual structures of mind, language, and shared meanings is complicated but a fruitful area of inquiry. I believe that we will eventually come to see that how we have evolved to apprehend the environment will also teach us a lot about how we can optimize our relationships - especially our temporally extended relationships.

I will remain invariant to you as long as I keep 'pinging' you and you can see me as feature of your environment. When I fade out and you can't see me, hear me, feel me, then I become an element outside the wholeness of your experience. So, I want to use this medium to work on that issue.

And then there are books. I have always enjoyed the way a book 'speaks'.

This has been a busy and hectic couple of months. Lot's of things change in the summer when you have children!









2004-05-25T10:33:14.923-07:00

More on Time.....

The idea of a chronotope is fascinating to me. It helps me anchor my thinking about time. One of the troubles I have always had in thinking about time was the problem of getting outside of a linear flow model. I had no metaphors and couldn't seem to land on any myself that really made sense. I am taking the notion of a chronotope as shared social 'artifact' as the base metaphor. I am then following this up with the metaphor of a 'virtual space' being a way to think about time - specifically asynchronous multiple person centered linear time models (chronotopes). I had a conversation with a colleague yesterday (Carol G-M) that really crystallized this for me. We were talking about the 'pacing' problems of working with a group in a moderated asynchronous dialogue. The 'space' we have typically talked about was the interface/application or subset of that (Bulletin Board or Query Space). But Carol said something that really made this clear to me. I mentioned to her the issue of some people in a dialogue I am moderating reading through the materials/activities and finishing 2 full weeks before everyone else. I was thinking about how I would handle this and Carol said this was analogous to a person showing up for a meeting 3 days early - putting their thoughts on the agenda on a flip chart and then leaving. Then the day of the meeting some of the people show up for the meeting and notice some of their colleagues have already finished! and some have not shown up! These people have their meeting and leave their tracks on the flip chart. Three days later the latecomers show up... look at all the flip charts... have their meeting and then leave!

What these helped me see is the need to translate this linear-flow model of time (sequenced arrivals/departures) with the idea of a virtual space whose primary physical dimensions are temporal. Now, what I mean by a physical dimension here is that it is acted on or it is an 'affordance' for behavior... like the ground affords standing and walls afford scaling, etc. We see these physical features as natural constituents of our 3 physical dimensions. Now we create a thing (an interface) that affords both a physical behavior (writing/typing/reading) as well as a temporal indexing of our participation and our presence.

This is all very confusing. But, I think it is coming along!





2004-04-28T20:22:48.936-07:00

Thinking about the Invisible Infrastructure (Note:Thoughts from a three years ago working in a corporation on processes) Do people tend to undervalue support infrastructures? Do they take for granted, ignore, or in some case deny the ‘realities’ underlying their core business? I think so. I also think that when initiating change in an organization one inevitably has to deal consciously with both existing and desired infrastructure arrangements. This becomes a problem, however, if the default tendency is not to see or consciously value the infrastructure that supports behavior and the need for systemic change. Infrastructure can be understood as physical (buildings, machines, etc.) as well as dynamic (processes, procedures & activities). Awareness of infrastructure can be seen as similar to awareness of the self. Using the body as a metaphor for the organization can be helpful in framing the basic issue. It is common knowledge that caring for the body, paying attention to diet, getting exercise and reducing stress on the body are all important skills and practices to develop. It is also common for people to not pay attention to these issues. That is, bad habits, lack of attention, or a too busy schedule often block our intention to pay attention. The underlying support structures of the body are taken for granted, not consciously attended to, and generally ‘invisible’. Until, of course, we get sick. Then we are forced to ‘see’ our body and to face the issues. In many cases we try to fix the problem in a way that doesn’t force a change in our behavior. For systemic infrastructure problems with our bodies (for example, chronic illnesses) this simply doesn’t work. What we need to do is change our behavior in a way that allows for regular sustained attention to our behavior. For many of us this is a very difficult practice. It forces us to live with ourselves in a very unfamiliar way. It forces changes in our schedules, in our habitual ways of obtaining gratification (for example, eating candy or fast food), and in our normal way of thinking. Changes like this generally upset our normal way of being. This is a very difficult problem to deal with – but as people who have gone to the edge with illness know – it must be done if one is to live well. Organizations have to do no less. If the premise of the invisible infrastructure in relation to the body is accepted then it is reasonable to infer it might exist in terms of physical artifacts, systems, and processes as well. The point I am making is that if we have predictable habitual ways of dealing with our own personal infrastructure elements then it is reasonable to assume there will be some carryover into the way our work culture (and especially our leaders) deal with collective processes and systems. My fear is that they are ignored until there is a problem and then we either over react or deny that the problem really goes to the infrastructure level. Individuals > Culture > Processes > Systems > Individuals A further difficulty is that changes in group behavior (or, more commonly, lack of change in group behavior) is attributed not to the automated and invisible nature of underlying structures and processes but to some nebulous realm characterized variously as organizational culture, collective attitude, people’s unwillingness or ‘fear’ of change, or some other unoperationalized and poorly understood concept or theory. Systems and processes are intended to support people and/or to extend their reach, their vision, and their will. When systems and processes become a part of collective action or practice they enter that realm of invisibility that can make working with them consciously very difficult. Indications or example[...]




2004-04-16T11:37:34.500-07:00

Chronotopes & Asynchronous Dialogue

I have long been a student of Jay Lemke's writing and recently came across a paper talking about the idea of a 'chronotope'. Or, as I understand it, a socially constructed map of time. This map exists in conjunction with our spatial navigations through life and changes as our navigations change. Lemke says "Chronotopes describe the typical trajectories and pacings of our traversals through and across places." I think there are some significant implications for the design of asynchronous technologies and methods here.

A big issue I am running into in my work is the pacing of conversations across gaps in time. This is not unlike what happens with IM or IRC when many people are clogging the time bottleneck. In asynchronous dialogue we have a more spacious bottleneck but we also have the problem of relevance and memory.

I have been confused and perplexed by time for a long time - certainly it has become more of an issue in working with asynchronous collaboration models. Lemke's work hints at some important new understandings. He says "We make space in time" - now if I am reading him correctly he also says that our conception of time is a function of our spatial relations - so, we have this interesting reflexive feedback thing happening when we experience either a time or a place.

So what are the implications for virtual space? Lemke talks a bit about that but uses notions of virtuality that I am not too familiar with. To me it is enough to identify a website as a virtual space. Of course the design of the website includes multiple virtual spaces and those too have their unique properties.

Here is a great paragraph from his paper:“How do we make a world from many places? Lived worlds are not the worlds of official cartography. Like the original inhabitants of Australia, we make our worlds along tracks: the course from place to place to place, scene to scene to scene. On many scales. Not just the tracks through our neighborhood or town, walked or driven daily and weekly. The tracks we walk again and again, or once only, through our school or office, through our house or apartment, and from one book to the next, one website to another. Our spaces and places are visual and ambulatory, tactile and auditory; they are integrated, cumulated or catenated, collected, and by not by sequence alone. The sequentiality of a track defines a scale on which we must leave one place behind to come to the next. But on shorter scales, we can see many places at once, hear other places than the one we see, array the micro-resources of place and re-make the space of that place through our use of it.”
I will make a part II to this post!

Chris





2004-04-15T18:02:54.246-07:00

Asynchronous Dialogue and "Adult Learning"?

It occurred to me today that the notion that adults learn differently than children is quite a popular notion. I thought a bit about that and wondered what exactly is all that different. My initial thoughts seem a bit cynical but I am going to go with them for now.

It seems to me that the big difference is the person's relation to the context. That is, adults typically have a more agentive (if that's a word?) role vis a vis their context . They have more freedom. Consequently they have more choices in terms of what they attend to. So in designing adult learning experiences we have to be more mindful of their agentive response - the choices they make to attend or not attend to what is happening.

Dialogue doesn't have much to do with this except that people have to have 'skin in the game' as they say. They have to be interested, involved, and participating. That is also true of learning for both children and adults.

Dialogue is a goal of education I'd say. Crafting activities, strategies, plans, and intentions for getting people to the point of learning is the technique that we use to start the learning process. These things in and of themselves are not the learning or the learning process. They are precursors. Adult learning theory from a simplistic perspective is about a different toolkit of precursors. Dialogue amongst children and adults is still dialogue. Dialogue is a quality of linguistic interaction not of the ontogenetic development of its practitioners.





2004-04-11T11:32:09.140-07:00

What is dialogue? Often the subject of dialogue begins with the dialogue at the beginning or as the beginning of some process. The process is a conversation or interaction leading to some sort of decision, understanding, or new awareness. I want to look at dialogue through the other end of the telescope for a minute. That is, what about that kind of talk that accompanies shared practice? Shared practice assumes some grasp of common purpose. Common purpose assumes some degree of common understanding. It seems to me that when people have a common goal or purpose they automatically align their behaviors such that common understanding is developed. This seems obvious. When I go to the grocery store I feel a sense of common purpose. We all know why we are there. The store has a meaning for us that is, at some level, common. And so on with a myriad of other practice and activities. What we do together we begin to understand together. One of the results of this is that it is very possible, and quite common actually, for people to develop their understanding of the world primarily from the set of shared practices that they engage in. Television has become a potent force in shaping the common understanding. We share a practice and we come to a common understanding. So we see that shared practices have the effect of creating a common purpose. A common purpose also affords a common understanding. Or more concisely: practice > purpose > understanding The role of dialogue is seen throughout the process of shared practice, realizing a common purpose, and developing a common understanding. That is - the thing that goes on between us (mostly unconscious) in a shared practice is dialogue. Other words or phrases for this are: 'just talking', 'gossiping', 'small talk, etc. I think this counts as dialogue because it is generative. This talking generates and maintains a kind of carrier wave of understanding that makes our shared practice meaningful. I realize there are numerous papers, books, and models that define and classify dialogue in a number of ways. Certainly I am familiar with and agree with Bohemian dialogue. The work of Isaacs (Isaacs, W., 1999. Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together. Doubleday: New York) and others illuminate the effectiveness and power of dialogue defined more closely than I am doing here. Where I do get into step with Isaacs and others is in the notion that dialogue is especially important because it can catalyze or 'begin' a process to develop a shared practice. In purely instrumental terms we can have a dialogue about "starting a business", "creating a school" or any of a number of other things. In other words it might look like this: dialogue > practice > purpose > understanding This makes sense to me. What begins to make less sense is treating dialogue as if it were a practice. In other words creating scenarios like: dialogue > purpose > understanding or, dialogue > understanding. This, of course, is every teacher’s fantasy! The final iteration is: dialogue > dialogue When that shared practice is defined as "developing a common understanding" we are truly in the realm of the weird. This is so because we are now, in Bateson's terms "Meta" to the thing we started talking about. If, as I maintain, that dialogue is a secondary effect or result of our common practice and if it is true that we can create common practice by learning to use this secondary effect. Then I may also say that we can create understanding using dialogue. That is, dialogue can generate the conditions necessary for developing common understanding. Which is not a new thought of course - it’s just that I am beginning to work out why it is tr[...]




2004-04-10T17:16:13.966-07:00

Creative Dialogue for a Common Purpose - What does that mean? Often the subject of dialogue begins with the dialogue at the beginning or as the beginning of some process. The process is a conversation or interaction leading to some sort of decision, understanding, or new awareness. I want to look at dialogue through the other end of the telescope for a minute. That is, what about that kind of talk that accompanies shared practice? Shared practice assumes some grasp of common purpose. Common purpose assumes some degree of common understanding. It seems to me that when people have a common goal or purpose they automatically align their behaviors such that common understanding is developed. This seems obvious. When I go to the grocery store I feel a sense of common purpose. We all know why we are there. The store has a meaning for us that is, at some level, common. And so on with a myriad of other practice and activities. What we do together we begin to understand together. One of the results of this is that it is very possible, and quite common actually, for people to develop their understanding of the world primarily from the set of shared practices that they engage in. Television has become a potent force in shaping the common understanding. We share a practice and we come to a common understanding. So we see that shared practices have the effect of creating a common purpose. A common purpose also affords a common understanding. Or more concisely: practice > purpose > understanding The role of dialogue is seen throughout the process of shared practice, realizing a common purpose, and developing a common understanding. That is - the thing that goes on between us (mostly unconscious) in a shared practice is dialogue. Other words or phrases for this are: 'just talking', 'gossiping', 'small talk, etc. I think this counts as dialogue because it is generative. This talking generates and maintains a kind of carrier wave of understanding that makes our shared practice meaningful. I realize there are numerous papers, books, and models that define and classify dialogue in a number of ways. Certainly I am familiar with and agree with Bohemian dialogue. The work of Isaacs (Isaacs, W., 1999. Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together. Doubleday: New York) and others illuminate the effectiveness and power of dialogue defined more closely than I am doing here. Where I do get into step with Isaacs and others is in the notion that dialogue is especially important because it can catalyze or 'begin' a process to develop a shared practice. In purely instrumental terms we can have a dialogue about "starting a business", "creating a school" or any of a number of other things. In other words it might look like this: dialogue > practice > purpose > understanding This makes sense to me. What begins to make less sense is treating dialogue as if it were a practice. In other words creating scenarios like: dialogue > purpose > understanding or, dialogue > understanding. This, of course, is every teacher’s fantasy! The final iteration is: dialogue > dialogue When that shared practice is defined as "developing a common understanding" we are truly in the realm of the weird. This is so because we are now, in Bateson's terms "Meta" to the thing we started talking about. If, as I maintain, that dialogue is a secondary effect or result of our common practice and if it is true that we can create common practice by learning to use this secondary effect. Then I may also say that we can create understanding using dialogue. That is, dialogue can generate the conditions necessary for developing common understanding. Which is not a new thou[...]




2004-04-10T16:10:50.860-07:00

Creative Dialogue for a Common Purpose - What does that mean?

It seems to me that when people have a common goal or purpose they automatically align their behaviors such that common understanding is developed. This seems obvious. When I go to the grocery store I feel a sense of common purpose. We all know why we are there. The store has a meaning for us that is, at some level, common. And so on with a myriad of other practice and activities. What we do together we begin to understand together. One of the results of this is that it is very possible, and quite common actually, for people to develop their understanding of the world primarily from the set of shared practices that they engage in. Television has become a potent force in shaping the common understanding.

So we see that shared practices have the effect of creating a common purpose. A common purpose also affords a common understanding. The role of dialogue is seen throughout the process of shared practice, realizing a common purpose, and developing a common understanding. Dialogue is especially important because it can catalyze or 'begin' a process to develop a shared practice. That is, dialogue can generate the conditions necessary for developing common understanding.

The understanding that develops from the practice of dialogue complex. By complex I mean multi-facted, unpredictable, and dynamic.





2004-04-09T08:53:33.513-07:00

What is asynchronous moderation?

I make a distinction between 'moderation' as described by bulletin board moderators and others treating the large scale management of threads and posts (or even the description of 'moderator' as a kind of referee in some sort of a debate or structured conversations). My understanding of the term in the case of asynchronous dialogue comes from the need to 'meta' observe what is going on as well as help with issues of scale and load of information.

The first 'moderator' of a text is any person reading it. If there are multiple persons reading a text with the purpose of generating a dialogue then a 'Moderator' (capital M) is needed to help gather and integrate the multiple perspectives. Each perspective or post is a 'text'. It is also read by multiple persons and it becomes an object for the Moderator's perception. This Moderator's perception is a meta perspective. This is not to say that any reader of all (or almost all) the texts is not also engaged in the meta-perspective - just that there is a defined role of Moderator that exists just for that purpose. The Moderator does not create original texts - or source texts - just meta-texts based on that primary work.

All this is still pretty meaningless unless we define the purpose or aim of the group having this distributed conversation. That is where the value of asynchronous dialogue becomes apparent.

If it is important that others review and critique my thinking or my feelings for whatever reason then the asynchronous dialogue format makes sense. Further - if there is a constraint on my relationships such that time and space intrude then doing this makes even more sense.

The Moderator does textual analysis and interpretation. This interpretation is then presented back to the participants in the form of a Moderator Statement. This statement is intended to catalyze a 'quickening' of the dialogue to move the conversation on - deeper, wider, narrower, whatever....

In conjunction with the purpose of the group's collective presence the Moderator keeps the conversation on track.

The Moderator reads everything and makes sure that everyone is acknowledged and that every point of view is represented. The Moderator feeds back the context to participants.

The Moderator mediates the technology when the interface fails.

The Moderator is a trickster.

Chris





2004-04-08T09:24:17.140-07:00

What is meaning anyway?

Connecting people via links, lines, wires, channels, conduits, planks, roads, vectors, ropes, whatever .. is amazing. We connect with each other all the time in many ways. But what about the mind to mind connection of language? What about the reciprocal channel we call understanding? Do you understand me? Do you understand what I mean?

These are important questions to me.

Time is a fundamental factor in everything (of course) and even more fundamental in developing relationships based on shared meanings. One of the interesting things about popular culture is the pervasive and continuous assumption that we (individual parts of popular culture) share the same meanings. I don't think so.

Popular culture is, from my perspective, a 'boundary object' in the sense the Susan Leigh Star talks about it (CiteSeerCitations) and affords meaning making but doesn't automatically provide it. Sharing experiences, time, talk, etc. is what makes the meanings. And this is what concerns and interests me. What kind of meaning is made in the staccato pulsing of our days? How much time do we have for collaborative reflection?

Meaning is mysterious in that - it is that - which makes sense of what we are experiencing. It is the sensibleness of the context of our participation... or something.

Meaning takes time. We can make meaning through multiple channels. We can (if we are patient and disciplined) multi-task our meaning making through asynchronous dialogue (moderated). Why Moderated?... hmmm. Later.

Chris




2004-04-07T19:35:18.233-07:00

Why am I occupied with asynchronous dialogue? Asynchronous participation? Moderated asynchronous dialogue?

Certainly face to face communication is important and preferred for a host of reasons. We have come to rely on it for most of our meaningful person to person interactions. Where we haven’t been able to be co-located physically we have developed ‘almost’ technologies like the telephone and video conferencing technologies that preserve as much of the feeling of face to face as possible. A huge part of this feeling is the synchronous (at the same timeness) nature of the interaction. Face to face interaction is rich and its effects are immediate.

So, why asynchronous? One of the most needed skills and habits of mind in our organizations today is the ability to reflect – to think carefully and critically about an idea, intention, action, or plan. And, it turns out, one of the hardest things to do in the complex immediacy of face to face interactions is to reflect carefully on what one is saying, hearing, doing, or intending. We tend to flow with the moment, shoot from the hip, or rely on standard and reliable behaviors. In face to face interactions we are affected and influenced by body language, status, gender, race, and a host of other related but important ‘relationship’ factors.

What I intend with my design work is to help people learn to talk about important and complex issues (e.g., trust) without the distractions of face to face but with the full impact of a committed and continuing relationship.

So whether you are across the globe or across the room or hallway the benefits of asynchronous dialogue can be significant. However, it takes a commitment and a willingness to learn a new way to communicate – to express yourself.

I also make a distinction between email, blogging, list servs, bulletin boards, and moderated asynchronous dialogue. Dialogue can happen in any of the these mediums but they are not designed for it. Dialogue is different than simple communication - than one to many, one to one, or many to one. Certainly it requires many to many channels but it is not just data or information flowing. It is a process of shared meaning creation - the creation of shared meanings. It takes time and a disposition to stay connected.

Dialogue is creative and generative.

Chris