Here is a game we used to play in Berlin. The idea began with trying to combat the righteousness with which we each organize our thoughts on our intellectual projects. When asked to narrate this to someone else, and when someone else says, 'have you thought about...?', we either compartmentalize that feedback ('I will look this up later') or dismiss it for not being serious enough. How do we teach ourselves, and others, the art of empathetic listening?
So the game goes this way. We know that 7 is a magical number: the average time to completion of dissertation, the number of years on the tenure clock, the average number of chapters in a monograph. Among other things. So, 7 minutes.
We started with a pair AB. A would begin and speak for exactly 3 minutes-- they can speak about the main questions animating their research or a particular chapter or whatever they wish. They are asked to speak at a normal pace (not rush) and speak to a peer audience. As the buzzer sounded, they stopped, and immediately B picks up. B picks up the narrative, and continue speaking about the project, adding questions, themes, concerns to As ideas but drawing upon B's own expertise, ideas, concerns and delights. However, critically, B is asked to add, augment, grow, consider, elaborate and NOT deconstruct, destroy, deteriorate. B speaks for exactly 4 minutes. At the end, there is a 3 minute period when those listening (not A not B) indicate what they liked, and help elaborate and illuminate.
The exercise was built as an antidote to the generic workshop where a colleague's paper etc is 'critiqued'-- that is, its gaps, elisions are pointed out for the scholar to address and what the listener feels is a lacunae is attended to. We wanted to have a place for anticipatory thinking where both as a speaker and as a listener, one tries to think alongside and in tandem to.
It was a fun game and some cool things happened and then we stopped. There was another game where we downloaded weird powerpoints (usually from .mil) and did karaoke with them.
Use as you will.
Very cool. I'm going to remember this and try to make use of it.
It occurs to me that this might be a way out of the tedium of so many conferences and round-tables where guests waffle on but there is no dialogue or thought...