In a world where there seems to be an endless amount of chatter, sometimes what we most need is a little peace and quiet (especially in the midst of the Edinburgh Festival season). I’m a big believer in making space for meditation, silence and walking around in nature to listen to the wind in the leaves and the waves whispering up the sand. Having said that, one of the interesting topics that came up in a meeting last week was the importance of dialogue and conversation, which, arguably, is quite a different activity than the somewhat more one-sided flow of information streaming at us from screens (I write this while realising this blog is doing the very same, though ideally this will amount to a conversation of sorts – I’d very much welcome your responses).
How can we keep channels of communication open, especially when we are not always sitting in the room with the person we’re engaging with and when we don’t always agree with each other? How can teachers and students surmount boundaries of age, power and knowledge to have valuable exchanges of information and experience?
In terms of what’s available online, I love podcasts for this reason – by their nature they are often already a conversation between at least two people, rather than one person speaking at you. They have conversation at their heart and I enjoy learning from hearing experts talk about their fields and areas of interest, especially when they are interviewed by non-experts who draw out so much for the layperson to contemplate.
There are many ways technology can help us to have fruitful conversations and exchanges with one another – to reduce rather than increase isolation, but the value of face-to-face human interaction and socialisation should also be celebrated. How do we find the balance here, between silence and sound, between online and in-person?
Here’s a challenge for you this week – can you have a conversation with a stranger or with someone you know but about something you disagree on? Can you do it in such a way where you both learn something from the exchange? Can you spend some time in silence (virtually and in reality), on your own and in public? Can you embrace the noise around you and vibrate with it?
If so, tweet us or write to us – we’d love to hear your stories.
Projects & Engagement Coordinator, Institute for Academic Development