By Oliver Escobar, with photos from Emilio Pérez.Published by Edinburgh Beltane (UK Beacons for Public Engagement).Free PDF HERE.
The rhetoric of dialogue is sometimes adopted rather uncritically in academic, organizational, and policy circles. Too often that rhetoric is deployed with little understanding of the variety of principles and practices enacted in dialogic communication. How can dialogue be conceptualized and distinguished from other forms of communication? On what assumptions is it based? How is communication understood? What does it take to facilitate it? What kinds of processes make it possible? What ideas about democracy underpin it? What kind of changes in academic and policy-making cultures does it call for?
This booklet seeks to speak to people involved in creating public forums for meaningful conversations. In particular, I have taken as imaginary readers those practitioners and students that I have had the fortune to work with. If, with pragmatist and deliberative thinkers, we agree that communication is the very fabric of democratic life, then analysing and improving the quality of communication in the public sphere becomes critical. Understanding dialogic communication helps us to interrogate our public engagement work, the role our research institutions should play in society, and the ways in which we can develop collective capacity to deal with complex problems.