Risk and Transformation: What ever happened to dialogue?
What passes for dialogue in the mass media is too often ideologically closed and politically volatile punditry. At the same time, communication has become unidirectional: the mass media speaks at us, not with us.
The Internet and social networks have created new spaces for us to narrate our lives in minute detail. Emails are dashed off with thoughtless abandon. Students walk around campus with eyes focused on their latest text message rather than their fellow students. In cyberspace, place disappears, time compresses, change accelerates and the things that connect us are less about culture and tradition than technology and consumption.
At the same time our institutions (social, business, government and educational) encourage isolation through specialization and structures that foster competition rather than cooperation. That our communities are disintegrating should not surprise us. Communities must be grounded in open, honest, trustworthy communication. And just as information is not knowledge (much less wisdom), the communication of our age is not dialogue.
Authentic dialogue can only happen if the participants are willing to risk their presuppositions. Authentic dialogue must also have the potential to transform. Providing spaces where we can dare to take risks and be transformed is critical. Universities often provide that space. The Brueggeman Center is a place within that larger space where dialogue is not only encouraged but taught, where dialogue is the first and foremost expectation.
Every Brueggeman Center project begins and ends in dialogue. For this reason we never do a project alone. We develop projects with our partners and work together to implement them and share in their success.
Our projects use dialogue to build “social capital”—the human-to-human engagement that forges the civic bonds upon which our communities are built. Along the way we
learn things about others but also about ourselves. Only through dialogue will we find the commitment and ways to work together toward common goods.