Get Ready for the Slow-Conversation Movement

13 September 2010 at 4:44 pm 6 comments

| Peter Klein |

Conversations today are constantly hijacked by digital fact-checkers. Every fact or statement, it seems, must be checked or augmented in real time with at-our-fingertips online information. We no longer trust each other to come up with good-enough facts or allow each other add colorful embellishment to our stories. Let me give a recent example to make my point. Over lunch the other day, I shared a story with my colleagues — the surreal experience of being accidently given a presidential suite at a Four Seasons Hotel. “This was an amazing room, probably 3000+ square feet with over-the-top appointments everywhere,” I said. No more than two minutes after making the statement, an associate checked on his BlackBerry the size of the presidential suite, correcting me that it was closer to 2000 square feet.

What happened to natural conversations, those based on what is already in our heads, unburdened by verfication? As the fast food movement has seen an opposing slow food movement take hold and shape, I predict we’ll soon see a similar desire for putting down for a moment all the “information enhancements” that come with mobile, digital-sparring tools.

That’s Anthony Tjan blogging at HBR. As someone who reads a lot of student papers — not to mention newspapers, magazines, and blogs — I tend to favor more fact checking, not less. But I see the point.

This is relevant for teaching and public speaking as well. I don’t record my classes, but I suspect that day is not far off (and some of my public talks are already preserved, for better or worse). Will professors be more rigid, overly cautious, less spontaneous, less natural, knowing that everything they say is ripe for verification, by current or future students (or administrators)? What is the appropriate balance between monitoring and governance and classroom spontaneity, ad hocery, and silliness?

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Education, Institutions, Management Theory, Teaching.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Richard Ebeling  |  13 September 2010 at 7:48 pm

    To be honest, Peter, I don’t even understand this.

    We normally assume that an individual tells us (more or less) correct “facts” when they speak or argue in conversation. We know that sometimes people don’t (either by accident or factual error, and sometimes intentionally).

    But people usually assume honesty and “good intentions” when hearing or speaking with someone. If we didn’t or do not, the integrity of much human interaction falls by the wayside.

    If the “default position” becomes doubt or presumed error or suspicion of every “other” to whom we listen or converse, this changes the entire dynamics of human life.

    Now, there have been societies in which presuming deception or manipulation was reasonable. For example, in dictatorships, and most especially in totalitarian states, in which the purpose of the State was to control minds through lies and “un-truths.”

    We have usually considered such societies “unnatural,” partly because it seems unnatural to intentionally distort facts, or misrepresent people and ideas in the process of human communication and argumentation.

    I’m not sure that such a development of attitudes in non-totalitarian society will make for a healthier community of minds.

    Richard Ebeling

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  14 September 2010 at 8:32 am

    Richard, I agree with you. The interesting issue, to me, is how the standards you describe can vary with context and circumstance. There’s one set of expectations of veracity and accuracy for courtroom testimony, a business negotiation, or even a formal lecture, another for the dinner table, water cooler, or peer-to-peer tutorial.

  • 3. k  |  14 September 2010 at 10:16 am

    Here in Venezuela was common to record classes . 10% of the students ( a class range between 20 and 400) were armed with tape recorders. I dont see it anymore. Perhaps because tape recorders are unavailable and bb doesnt fit the work. Some professor never allowed it to avoid been confronted after an exam with :you said it, based in the transcripts ( that were circulated )not the tape. I allowed them but when i was to say something shocking i told the off your recorders( i did not care anyway if the did or not) and then said to them: It is what i think and i stick to it. Never had a problem.
    BTW: there are recorded classes in youtube, the openware program. Have been any problem with them?
    Why they trust the accuracy of wikipedia more than the chatter? You are asked about the concurrence to the Glenn Beck march. Do you believe the Instapundit or Sullivan?
    I was in a room and i calculated 3000 ft. I did not take with me the metric tape and i m not a engineer.My answer for the need a life person
    “Now, there have been societies in which presuming deception or manipulation was reasonable”
    Every society is based on hypocrisy. To be sincere is to be egoist( Gone with the Wind) and disrespectful to other people feelings. Person memory unlike computer dont need a delete tab because people forget selectively( it s a survival mechanism and a mind sanity defense tool) and your recount will be partial want you it or not . No matter where you are asked. And about manipulation , see Volock Conspiracy yesterday post on Madison and back stabbing and democracy

  • 4. Ty  |  14 September 2010 at 12:00 pm

    According to wikipedia, the proper balance is:

    Monitoring/Governance: 68%
    Classroom spontaneity, ad hocery, silliness, 32%

  • 5. Peter Klein  |  14 September 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Dang, I clearly need to make some adjustments. (Not saying which way.)

  • 6. Thomas  |  17 September 2010 at 11:04 am

    I got my students to agree to put away all their sources of “facts” for the first hour of a three hour class, next time we meet. They will not have their books and, importantly, their laptops open. They will have to participate in the conversation with their “minds only”. My argument was that it’s an important experience to have: letting a thought form and be expressed with fact-checking it (so that all expression becomes reading off a page, which prepares them only to read off tele-prompter later in life). Fact checking is for the preparation of texts for publication, not for conversation.

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