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Participant Interaction Modes

Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue

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Part O of Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue: Collection of papers and notes, problems and possibilities on the new frontier of high-risk gatherings concerning social development (1991).


Meetings as a whole, or groups of participants within a meeting, may give preference to one or more modes of interaction possibly at different stages of the meeting. This effectively determines the styles of the meeting and may either attract or alienate certain participants. 1. Primarily verbal modes
  1. Fact-oriented: The stress is on stating information (often quantitative) considered to be factual, querying such facts, comparing them, and extrapolating from them to domains about which fewer facts are known by those present.
  2. Affect-oriented: The stress is on the expression of emotional opinion concerning different experiences and facts. Participants may be emotionally aroused by the repeated reinforcement of certain opinions.
  3. Concept-oriented: In this mode, categories of fact and experience are compared, criticized, re-ordered, possibly with only incidental reference to the referents.
  4. Doctrine-oriented: A set of beliefs shared by participants may give rise to statements reaffirming and justifying them, as well as extending their application to new domains. This includes interaction about legal and procedural matters.
  5. Value-oriented: Statements stressing the qualitative importance of particular approaches to any of the above.
  6. Action prescriptive: Here the stress is on what should be done, usually in the light of any of the above.
2. Primarily non-verbal modes
  1. Physical sharing: Feasting/drinking, dance, physical games, group exercises.
  2. Emotional sharing: Drama, song, music, group empathy exercises.
  3. Intellectual sharing: Conceptual "resonance" of participants ("on the same wavelength"), usually stimulated by occasional words; drama, music.
  4. Status affirming: Actions which reinforce the importance of a participant and of those who articulate the beliefs or doctrines he shares.
  5. Communal celebration: Partially ritualized collective affirmation of values,and renewal of participant belief therein.
  6. Action: Shared work, whether constructive or destructive.
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