Thinking communities and Dialogues
August 28, 2006
Aldo de Moor, who I know from the Community Informatics Research Network, wrote a post on his blog, Growing Pains, about a dream he has of “reclaiming our place to reflect”. He feels nostalgic for the times when he did his best thinking on remote islands or mighty forests and wishes that it was possible:
to be able to spend a couple of months a year on such a remote location, doing my thinking and main writing there, then return to ‘The World’ to work out these ideas, and keep my projects and contacts going.
And he has set up a Wiki space, Thinking Communities, to help start concretising this dream.
To some extent his dream is reflected in what we have been doing in our Dialogues, but where we have started with small, concretising steps rather than the big dream. At the Setúbal Dialog we met in a beautiful location, two windmills overlooking the sea and the wild coastline of the Alentejo. Our conversations took place in the shade, in the sun, in the pool, on the picnic benches in the grounds. We shared in the cooking and washing up. People from different countries, with different academic and professional backgrounds, shared stories about their own creative projects (*)
After the Dialog we did a public workshop at the Business School where I work. This part was important for a number of reasons, including that it opened up the conversations to a wider community and gave some kind of reality check. Pragmatically speaking, for some people it also helped legitimise their participation in the Dialogue to their respective Institutions and with funding.
Since then we have developed our practices of meeting up before a conference. The Prato Dialogue is deliberately hooked on to the CIRN Prato Conference. Our Dialogue will actually take place in Florence (not far from Prato), where, with a loose agenda we will have time to relax and to concentrate. After the Dialogue we will continue some of the conversations in a workshop at the Prato Conference.
It’s not yet the big dream, it’s just little steps towards it.
(*) It sounds romantic and it was. But there were painful bits too. And people’s experiences of the Dialog were not all the same.