I’ve noticed that there is sometime a bit of confusion, often detected when someone comments, in effect “oh, dialogues can be between more than two people”. Sure. I’ve been searching for some insight. Found some here (Arne Haselbach (Vienna) Polylogue – a paradigm for cultures
Based on a different notion of “polylogue”):
In my understanding there are two major differences between the words “dialogue” and “polylogue”. The first relates to the numbers involved, the second to the specificity of the participants.
As regards the numbers involved, “dialogue” refers to two or more, “polylogue” to many. Related to that is the second difference. The “two or more” that dialogue refers to are usually thought of as specific people – even if unknown -, while “the many” that the word “poly” refers to does not imply specific people.
The post goes on to explain those points, then gives the following summary:
Polylogues are, thus, the setting and the processes
- in which people learn a language and acquire the stereotyped meanings and uses of language
- in which people grow up into or enter a culture and acquire the stereotyped meanings and patterns of behaviour and its dominant rationality
and, at the same time, polylogues are the setting and the processes
- in which languages and cultures develop and change over time.
Polylogues are central to all phenomena of living cultures.
Still chasing an intuition that the polylogues concept brings something to the table set by the knowledge gardening framework I have been outlining.
In Whose Conversation: Engaging the Public in Authentic Polylogue, (2004) Stephen Coleman suggests
that there is a radical cultural disconnection between the ways politicians think, act and express themselves and the norms of everyday sociability.
In a section on disconnection (and reconnection) between political entities and people, he tellingly states:
In reality, communication technologies can transmit signals, but cannot automatically or deterministically reconfigure relationships. The persistent question that must be addressed by the modernising proponents of reconnection is, Connection to what?
The paper then introduces conversation, suggesting many of the same points encountered in descriptions of Bohmian Dialogues:
Genuine polylogue, in the sense suggested by Buber, entails openness to conflicting
values as well as opinions. Within a deliberative context, openness involves the
abandonment of fixed preferences and values and a willingness to give reasoned
consideration to alternative preferences and values.
Then, the paper turns to deep listening:
In a collaborative dialogue, such as a conversation, listening comprises the
silent, reflective part of speaking. Buber refers to moments of communicative
interaction that are neither simply monologue nor reception as ‘the between.’ In this
sense, a genuine conversation between politicians and people should be based less on
speaking or being heard than those moments of common recognition where there is a
fusion between speaking and listening.
The paper finally envisions a space in which public polylogues are conducted, sketching six guiding principles:
Purpose: a reason for engaging the public
Design: appropriate use to technologies, known in my thesis work as boundary infrastructures and boundary objects
Recruitment: ensuring the right mix (as inclusive as possible) of participants
Moderation: needs to be fair, inclusive and transparent:
The traditional notion of the internet as a space of anarchy should be resisted
Summation: regular summaries of what’s going on
Response and outcome:
A link must be demonstrated between the initial purpose for engaging the public and
the outcome of their participation.
My own take on those six principles is that I have avoided the notion of moderation, though I am well aware of the wild west mentality and bad behavior that can crop up from time to time. I’ve been more inclined to seek ways to use a high-dimensional reputation and trust system to tame the wild frontiers of participatory behavior.