Hi, all! I am a new NCDD blogger, and I am also the founder of Idealogue, Inc., which develops interactive web platforms to empower people and organizations to solve difficult challenges through dialogue and collaboration.
The active NCDD listserv recently addressed the question of the ability of online dialogue to provide value to the practitioner’s toolkit. At Idealogue, Inc. we have been developing an online platform for dialogue on difficult and pressing issues. On the one hand, online interaction and social networking is enormously popular, but on the other hand, public discussion boards and comment systems are not the first place many people think of for constructive dialogues–me included.
Maybe the lack of face-to-face interaction is part of the problem, but can we also better implement technology?
A recent experience with our first dialogue site, BeyondTolerance.org, an online network that promotes discussion and understanding within academic and non-profit communities about religious, social and political issues, illustrated to me that some important elements of in-person dialogue can be transferred online.
In a dialogue I’m participating in, the conversation eventually led to storytelling, which I found intriguing for a couple of reasons.
First, what was even more interesting to me than the in-depth issues and opinions that had been shared thus far in the dialogue were these stories and experiences. The stories, whether experienced personally or passed down, helped shape the opinions and perspectives we were discussing, and brought the issues out of the abstract into something tangible and real.
Second, the online dialogue process helped bring about awareness of the stories. Uncovering stories, like finding one’s interests, can take some work. It was interesting to see that an online process helped uncover stories, which then helped inform the conversation further.
Even a short, anecdotal story can bring about important understanding in a conversation. Storytelling can also be an effective communication method in that stories are a little more apolitical than statements and comments; a story is verifiably your own experience and is not necessarily tied to a pre-defined ideology or political platform. Storytelling can remove the artifice of politics and allow people to really hear, and also question, the reasons behind a belief system. So if storytelling can occur online I’m excited about the potential for online interaction to play important roles in dialogue processes for many situations.
Of course, storytelling has long been revered by many and been an important part of facilitation. So to be clear, I’m only sharing my own experience (and story!) about starting to understand the strength of storytelling, and in the context of online dialogue. My experience has encouraged us to make storytelling a more integral part of BeyondTolerance.org as we develop the platform further, including upcoming features to highlight stories in dialogues and to start a new dialogue based on someone’s story.
Can storytelling add to the depth of online interaction and help make the process more effective? Please comment here or send any thoughts or questions to . If you are interested in utilizing BeyondTolerance.org we can send additional information, or feel free to sign up with the registration code “beyondtolerance10.”