Friday, November 02, 2007

Conversations With People I Don't Know

This week I have had the pleasure of planning my support role in a session Juanita Brown and Nancy Margulies are convening next week at the Pegasus conference on "Conversation as a Radical Act." At one point in the conversation I brought up the "conversations" that have been occurring in Twitter.

Are they the same as the deep, world changing conversations that people are intentionally convening in gatherings across the world?

Is a short, 140 character exchange world changing? Can an encounter with someone in Second Life have deep meaning?

For me, the answer is yes.

Here is the second question that is emerging. When is it important to know at a fairly deep level the person you are having a conversation with and when is the conversation itself all that matters? Again, I hearken to my twitter, blogging and wiki networks where I interact with people because we care about something similar, not because I "know" them, much less have "met" them F2F.

Can conversations with people you don't know be world changing?

For me, the answer is yes.

Then, today I was reading a review in the Seattle Times of a retrospective of the artist Kim Jones at the Henry Art Gallery. Critic Sheila Farr wrote "This is one show where knowing something about the artist's biography is essential."

This came after a long call with a colleague in Bogota, Colombia, trying to sort out the experiences of participants in a workshop we are running - experiences of frustration and guilt. As I reflected on the feedback that I finally got, after asking and craving for weeks, sensing a disconnect, I realized that my "yes" is not always everyone else's "yes." That not everyone can have meaningful conversations online, in messages short or long, or without a strong base of personal relationship.


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