Community Dialogue: OSU-Cascades Creating Non-polarized Scenes for Engaging Contested Topics Natalie Dollar, PhD

Community Dialogue: OSU-Cascades
Creating Non-polarized Scenes
for Engaging Contested Topics
Natalie Dollar, PhD
Expressing self in public, a deeply felt
USAmerican belief
• “that one can and should speak, one can and
should speak about self, its history,
experiences, and opinions; and that one should
not let others inhibit the willingness to speak in
public” (Carbaugh, 2005, p. 22)
• “a civil routine where information is produced,
and differences among people are both a
warrant and theme of its productions” (p. 45)
Dissenting views
• USAmericans hold them and should express
• Widely accessible communication forms
 Discussion
 Debate
 Deliberation
 Argument
 Public meetings
Cultural Communication Crisis,
Revisiting the context, April 2003
• “I haven’t felt this way since well I’m not sure
I’ve ever felt this way. This is America and I am
scared to voice my opinion.” (community
member, March 2003)
• “I certainly don’t want to bring up Iraq unless I’m
talking to my most trusted friends and they tend
to think like me. How in the world am I going to
understand their perspective if everyone is
terrified to talk about it, especially in public and
at work?” (community member March 2003)
Communication obligation
• To create a communication scene where
members of our community could come
together and respectfully communicate with
others, who likely held differing opinions and
beliefs, during this time of crisis.
• Manage “dueling identities” communication
War & Peace: A Series of Dialogues,
Spring 2003
• Community Dialogue Workshop
 OSU-Cascades and Central Oregon partnership
 4 workshops, 5th offered February – March 2008
• Community Dialogue Project (research and
 Series of studies
 Campus dialogue workshops
 Participant application
“Getting below the Sound Bite” by
Engaging the Betwixt and Between
Study 1
Community Dialogue Workshop 1
USAmerican public “expressive order”
1. Lack of depth in content
2. Absence of incurring future interactional
3. Absence of attention to consequences of
communication for both local and global
4. Absence of silence as a powerful resource for
understanding other, identifying mutuality, and
building trusting relationships
Research Questions:
1. Can we transform an educational and public
scene supporting polarized, expert-driven
communication, to a scene prioritizing “nonpolarized discourse of substance”?
2. What communication practices facilitate this
3. What communication practices inhibit this
1. Phase 1 – across 4 workshops
• Audio recordings of CDW
• Review recordings weekly
2. Phase 2 – specific workshop
• Review of audio-tapes, participant evaluations, focus
group, research journal
• Transcription of each 2-hour workshops
• Cultural pragmatics and cultural themes analysis
 Communication profile
 Communication strategies/practices
 Focus on participants’ communication
1. River metaphor - our emergent “optimal
communication form”
 Exemplar workshop
 Ebbs and flows
 Both necessary
Findings continued:
2. Engaging the dialogic moment – engaging the complexity
 Recognizing dialogic moments
• Dialogic listening
• Building trust
• Getting to know participants’ communication styles
 Negotiating the narrow ridge
Personal and communal
Emotion and rationality
Linear and non-linear
Process and product
 Tension of holding one’s own while engaging other
Findings continued:
3. Inhibiting dialogic moment
 Prism of dialectical tensions
• USAmerican cultural values & dialogic sensibilities
 Preference for talk
Communicative agency
• Requires the presence of appropriate rules,
resources, and motives
• If we intentionally create places where persons
who disagree and misunderstand one another
are encouraged to interact, dialogic moments
are likely to occur.
• Make sure dialogue is the appropriate communication
form and provide dialogue scene
• Start with a set of rules for your dialogue
• Clarify dialogue’s relationship to other communication
forms such as decision-making
• Teach listening as essential skill
• Recognize and embrace the situatedness of each
interaction and relationship
• Not all participants will engage in dialogue at the same