The Art and Science of Conversation

Conversation is something we take for granted and perhaps don’t readily associate with web design.  We don’t appreciate the extent to which online activities become collaborative.  Over barely ten years the Internet became a place where conversations are held with contacts all over the world.  We need to understand the art and science of conversation.

Two things intrigue me about conversation and they have implications about how all of us conduct our online business including how we structure our websites.

At their best conversations happen when one or more minds engage in considering a problem or situation.

The Science of Conversation

Note I suggest a single mind can hold a conversation and this leads me to the first characteristic of conversation.  Conversations happen when minds are paying attention.  Imagine a scientist who contemplates some minor fluctuation in readings, seeking patterns.  Perhaps the scientist will try something to see how the experimental system responds.

The scientist’s single mind might then enter into conversations with colleagues and suddenly a new paradigm emerges from that conversation.  Sometimes attention paid by colleagues lead the scientist to a sudden insight.  If colleagues resist their insight, the scientist must hone their argument, to test their hypothesis and produce evidence.

These two principles are typical of conversations.  Pay attention and new ideas emerge from a meeting of minds.  You may already be thinking of dozens of reasons why conversations don’t happen online.  But is it possible they don’t happen because too often we’re not paying attention to how we design our websites and online presence?

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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