Archive for March, 2006

The arc light of conversation

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

I’m cheating today and blogging by proxy through an observer of interactions and human behavior far more astute and verbose than even I. Myself? Me? I always get a bit lost on that bit…

I like this one because it’s true, and though i’m always looking for ways in which these details occur online, this one does so completely capture the pendulum swing, the aristry, and arc light of good face to face conversation. I think of things like this when I read in the paper about our culture’s increasing tendency to produce kids that snap, bite, bark, and snarl when they don’t get what they want. I profoundly believe that more can be accomplished in speech than any other dimension of human interaction; more than many of us have experienced.

“Thus, as Adam Smith argued in his Theory of the Moral Sentiments, the individual must phrase his own concerns and feelings and interests in such a way as to make these maximally usable by the others as a source of appropriate involvement; and this major obligation of the individual qua interactant is balanced by his right to expect that other present will make some effort to stir up their sympathies and place them at his command. These two tendencies, that of the speaker to scale down his expressions and that of the listeners to scale up their interests, each in the light of the other’s capacities and demands, form the bridge that people build to one another, allowing them to meet for a moment of talk in a communion of reciprocally sustained involvement. It is this spark, not the more obvious kinds of love, that lights up the world.” Erving Goffman (Interaction Ritual 116)