Friday, August 03, 2007

Socrates Cafe poster

Socrates Cafe pic

From Summer 2002. The text says "Collective enquiry into the basic questions of life, through freeform philosophical discussion. No previous knowledge of philosophy needed. You pick the topic. The discussion will flow by itself into unknown territory, be there to see what's uncovered. Discussion will be moderated to keep it from descending into total chaos. The Cafe will last two hours or until it comes to a natural close."

The guy on the bottom is a disheveled looking Ludwig Wittgenstein, facing a negative of himself flipped 180 degrees.

For the first poster I used a frustrated picture of Mikhail Bakunin leaning his head on his hand.

The idea for this came from the book "Socrates Cafe" by Christopher Phillips where he describes facilitating philosophical discussions with groups of people with no background whatsoever through a) having people write down a topic they'd like to talk about, like love or religion, b) put the topics in a hat and have someone pick one out of it, and c) having people take turns talking, responding to each other and putting their own views out, with a moderator kind of stepping in when things get slow to prod the discussion along with questions of his or her own.

I wasn't a very good Socrates Cafe moderator, and soon it transferred over to one of the participants, but the reason that happened was very interesting. This thing, at least as I conceived it, was for empowering people who had no access to this stuff but who were interested in the basic questions of life. What I didn't want to happen was for pseudo-philosophical idiots who had big mouths to go into the group and to take it over because of it's ultra-democratic structure.

Guess what happened.

I couldn't say "Please stop talking" or direct like that. I tried hard to nicely and politely interject to try to give other people a chance to talk, but in the end short of physically yelling at this person there'd be no way to accomplish it. So, eventually I just folded my arms up and passed it on to someone else.

Actually, the truth of how I passed it on to the next person is sort of more inelegant, but this is close enough.

It's the "Tyranny of Structurelessness", which is a very good essay available on line coming from the Feminist movement of the '70s critiquing groups where certain people in the group have more power than others but where formally everyone is equal.

***plus, click through the photograph to see some, umm, interesting pictures of the webmaster. For only $5.99 a month! Just kidding. But there are interesting photos.

1 comment:

Richard S. said...

"...critiquing groups where certain people in the group have more power than others but where formally everyone is equal."

Hi. I wanted to mention, asfo_del (of blog "Living on Less") and I co-wrote a Net-based "book" on exactly that subject. It was called the Collective Book on Collective Process: