The Art of Modern Conversation

Ana-Maria Niculcea
I came across Theodore Zeldin’s talk on the art of conversation and asked myself: How does the way in which we converse with others, change the way we value ourselves and our relationships? 

I find it much easier to talk to someone one-to-one, focusing on their physical being, meandering the various levels of conversation guided by patterns of breathing, grimaces and smiles, all the small signs that enrich the art of listening. The screen takes most of that away. We end up reducing others and ourselves, both wilfully and unconsciously, to a set of preferences and simplified abstract and absolute opinions which allow us to enter a variety of social groups but do not always enhance the quality of our communication within those groups. 

On the other hand, the online community brings together knowledge and interaction, which would otherwise be very limited, if not downright impossible. Stanford School of Medicine developed Woebot, a friendly algorithm, which allows those with high levels of social anxiety, or for whom access to real-life therapy is not an option, to interact and deal with mental health issues in a way that is free of shame or feelings of inadequacy. 

These issues inspired me when organising our lecture series this term entitled ‘The Art of Modern Conversation’. This past week, Dr Bethany Sollereder talked about how communication is affected in a world where screens and the relativity of knowledge and truth severely impact our ability to own our narrative. Next Wednesday, join me in the Old Library at 7.30pm as Dr Mariarosaria Taddeo will be speaking about the potential of Artificial Intelligence to tackle social problems and create environments that do not restrict the self, but allow it to flourish. 
Ana-Maria Niculcea
Communications, Learning and Outreach Officer 
You can read the whole newsletter here