The arc light of conversation

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)


  • Anonymous

    There is more beauty and emotion evoked in a piece of music or a painting than speech (face to face communication).The spark is only lit when two people come together in mutual recognition of deeper feelings!

  • adrian

    Music, any of the arts, can only evoke it though… talk actually calls it out, brings it up, and involves people in it. Unless you mean musicians playing their instruments at one another, in which case there might be something there!
    We can recognize that others are having feelings, but we can’t have them, or know them… If we are with a person having feeling we can be with them. But I do think talking can do more than music at moving a person. That being different than evoking

  • Anonymous

    ok there is a question of semantics here re moving, evoking… boring …no person can ever know anothers feelings…true feelings are purely subjective, you talk about the “arc light ” of face to face comunication…all that is involved in communication and a face to face is not essential here, is to stimulate a mutual recogniton of a thread of understanding. I do not have see your face to recognise this thread!

  • adrian

    interesting… you may recognize what i cant, as you’re anonymous to me here. but nothing transpires between two people who recognize, for themselves, an X, Y, or Z. There’s no “mutual” there at all; just “coincidental,” “adjacent,” … There’s a difference between being together and being next to one another.

  • Anonymous

    coincidence is chance … the significance of a spatial separation has nothing to do with chance its circumstance which does not mean there is no mutual …the only separation is one of a recognitiopn of face… in order in your eyes? to legitimise the communication by making it meaningful?…that does not make it more significant/meaningful just quicker to get feedback and to know if you have “read” right.

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