The Long Arc of Conversation

In our lives most of us have had the pleasure of relationships that seem to involve a long and constantly growing conversation. Maybe it’s with a good friend. Maybe it’s with a family member or a mentor. It’s not that you’re talking with each other all the time, though even when you’re not actually talking to each other, you’re thinking of what the other person said or of what you might say to them. You play over and over in your mind what was said. You think of new things to say. Even when you’re not with the person, you’re thinking of things to tell them. You think of things that respond to, or add onto what was said before. And in your conversations, you’re genuinely trying to figure things out. You’re not trying just to knock down the other person’s ideas. When you get a chance to talk again, of course, you don’t have to start at zero. You might go back to something you were talking about ages ago or you might launch into a new topic you feel is important to share. Because there’s a long arc to your conversations, you don’t feel like you have to say everything every single time you talk. You’ll talk again soon. Over time the long arc of your conversation will flow through many different paths with many different telling moments.
Taking part in one of the Interactivity Foundation’s Sanctuary Discussion Projects, like the Shaping our Towns & Cities project, is a lot like that kind of a conversation. Each session is connected to the others in an organic way. Just as with your other conversation partners, this means that there are times when a discussion will jump back to an earlier conversation point. It means that in the time between each session you might think of new ways to build on what was said before. As you talk with your fellow panelists, you’ll be trying to figure things out, exploring different ways to think about things, not just arguing to knock down one idea or another. And it means that you don’t have to rush to cover everything in one session. There will be yet time to talk about new insights, new questions, and new ideas as these emerge through the arc of the conversation. If you take part in one of our projects, you’ll find conversations that grow over just such a long arc.

–Jeff Prudhomme

Cross posted at the Interactivity Foundation’s Perspectives Blog.

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