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The medium is the message

The dialog is the relationship with information, and with each other, on which the holotopia depends.

It is the transformation of our discourse with which the holotopia needs to begin.

The dialog, just as the mirror, is an entire aspect of the holotopia. This keyword defines an angle of looking from which the holotopia as a whole can be seen, and needs to be seen.

The mirror and the dialog are inextricably related to one another: Our invitation is not only to self-reflect, but also and most importantly to have a dialog in front of the mirror. The dialog is not only a praxis, but also an attitude. And the mirror points to the core element of that attitude—which David Bohm called "proprioception". But let's return to Bohm's ideas and his contribution to this timely cause in a moment.

The dialog is a key element of the holotopia's tactical plan: We create prototypes, and we organize dialogs around them, as feedback mechanisms toward evolving them further. And this dialog itself, as it evolves—turns us who participate in it into bright new 'headlights'!

Everything in our Holotopia prototype is a prototype. And no prototype is complete without a feedback loop that reaches back into its structure, to update it continuously. Hence each prototype is equipped with a dialog.

This point cannot be overemphasized: Our primary goal is not to warn, inform, propose a new way to look at the world—but to change our collective mind. Physically. Hands-on.

The dialog is an instrument for changing our collective mind.

The dialog is as different from our common way of communicating, as the holotopia is from the dystopia we are headed to. And academically—the story of its evolution began with Socrates and Plato, and still continues.

The dialog, even more than the mirror, brings up an association with the academia's inception. Socrates was not convincing people of a "right" view to see "reality"; he was merely engaging them in a self-reflective dialog, the intended result of which was to see the limits of knowledge—from which the change of what we see as "reality" becomes possible.

Let us begin this dialog about the dialog by emphasizing that the medium here truly is the message: As long as we are having a dialog, we are making headway toward holotopia. And vice-versa: when we are debating or discussing our own view, aiming to enforce it on others and prevail in an argument, we are moving away from holotopiaeven when we are using that method to promote holotopia itself!

The attitude of the dialog here follows from the fundamental premises, which are part of the socialized reality and the narrow frame insights—and which are axiomatic to holotopia. Hence coming to the dialog 'wearing boxing gloves' (manifesting the now so common verbal turf strife behavior) is as ill-advised as making a case for an academic result by arguing that it was revealed to the author in a vision.

But what is the dialog?

Instead of giving a definitive answer—let us turn this keyword, dialog, into an abstract ideal goal, to which we will draw closer and closer by experimenting, and evolving. Through a dialog. We offer the following stories as both points of reference, and as illustration of the kind of difference that the dialog as new way to communicate can mean, and make.

David Bohm's "dialogue"

While through Socrates and Plato the dialog has been a foundation stone of the academic tradition, David Bohm gave this word a completely new meaning—which we have undertaken to develop further. The Bohm Dialogue website provides an excellent introduction, so it will suffice to point to it by echoing a couple of quotations. The first is by Bohm himself.

There is a possibility of creativity in the socio-cultural domain which has not been explored by any known society adequately.

We let it point to the fact that to Bohm the "dialogue" was an instrument of socio-cultural therapy, leading to a whole new co-creative way of being together. Bohm considered the dialogue to be a necessary step toward unraveling our contemporary situation.

The second quotation is a concise explanation of Bohm's idea by the curators of Bohm Dialogue website.

Dialogue, as David Bohm envisioned it, is a radically new approach to group interaction, with an emphasis on listening and observation, while suspending the culturally conditioned judgments and impulses that we all have. This unique and creative form of dialogue is necessary and urgent if humanity is to generate a coherent culture that will allow for its continued survival.

As this may suggest, the dialog is conceived as a direct antidote to power structure-induced socialized reality.

Carl Jung's "shadow"

Carl Jung pointed to a useful insight for understanding the dialog, by his own lead keyword "shadow". In a non-whole world, we become "large" by ignoring or denying or "repressing" parts of our wholeness, which become part of our "shadow". The larger we are, the larger the "shadow". It follows us, scares us, annoys us. And it contains what we must integrate, to be able to grow.

The dialog may in this context be understood as a therapeutic instrument, to help us discharge and integrate our "shadow".

Dialog and epistemology

Bohm's own inspiration (story has it) is significant. Allegedly, Bohm was moved to create the "dialogue" when he saw how Einstein and Bohr, who were once good friends, and their entourages, were unable to communicate at Princeton. Allegedly, someone even made a party and invited the two groups, to help them overcome their differences, but the two groups remained separated in two distinct corners of the room.

The reason why this story is significant is the root cause of the Bohr-Einstein split: Einstein's "God does not play Dice" criticism of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory; and Bohr's reply "Einstein, stop telling god what to do!" While in our prototype Einstein has the role of the icon of "modern science", in this instance it was Bohr and not Einstein who represented the epistemological position we are supporting. But Einstein later reversed his position— in "Autobiographical Notes". This very title mirrors Einstein as an artist of understatement; "Autobiographical Notes" is really a statement of Einstein's epistemology—just as "Physics and Philosophy" was to Heisenberg. While the fundamental assumptions for the holoscope have been carefully federated, it has turned out that federating "Autobiographical Notes" is sufficient, see Federation through Images).

The point may or may not be obvious: Even to Einstein, this icon of "modern science", the dialog was lacking to see that we just cannot "tell God what to do"; that the only thing we can do is observe the experience—and model it freely.

But Einstein being Einstein—he finally did get it. And so shall we!

Dialog and creativity

Bohm's experience with the "dialogues" made him conclude that when a group of people practices it successfully, something quite wonderful happens—a greater sense of coherence, and harmony. It stands to reason that the open and humble attitude of the dialog is an important or a necessary step toward true creativity.

And creativity, needless to say, is yet another key aspect of holotopia, and a door we need to unlock.

We touched upon the breadth and depth of this theme by developing our Tesla and the Nature of Creativity prototype—and we offer it here to prime our future dialogs about it.

Dialog and The Club of Rome

There is a little known red thread in the history of The Club of Rome; the story could have been entirely different: Özbekhan, Jantsch and Christakis, who co-founded The Club with Peccei and King, and wrote its statement of purpose, were in disagreement with the course it took in 1970 (with The Limits to Growth study) and left. Alexander Christakis, the only surviving member of this trio, is now continuing their line of work as the President of the Institute for 21st Century Agoras. "The Institute for 21st Century Agoras is credited for the formalization of the science of Structured dialogic design." (Wikipedia).

Bela H. Banathy, whom we've mentioned as the champion of "Guided Evolution of Society" among the systems scientists, extensively experimented with the dialog. For many years, Banathy was staging a series of dialogs within the systems community, the goal of which was to envision social-systemic change. With Jenlink, Banathy co-edited two invaluable volumes of articles about the dialogue.

Dialog and democracy

In 1983, Michel Foucault was invited to give a seminar at the UC Berkeley.

What will this European historian of ideas par excellence choose to tell the young Americans?

Foucault spent six lectures talking about an obscure Greek word, "parrhesia".

[P]arrhesiastes is someone who takes a risk. Of course, this risk is not always a risk of life. When, for example, you see a friend doing something wrong and you risk incurring his anger by telling him he is wrong, you are acting as a parrhesiastes. In such a case, you do not risk your life, but you may hurt him by your remarks, and your friendship may consequently suffer for it. If, in a political debate, an orator risks losing his popularity because his opinions are contrary to the majority's opinion, or his opinions may usher in a political scandal, he uses parrhesia. Parrhesia, then, is linked to courage in the face of danger: it demands the courage to speak the truth in spite of some danger. And in its extreme form, telling the truth takes place in the "game" of life or death.

Foucault's point was that "parrhesia" was an essential element of Greek democracy.

This four-minute digest of the 2020 US first presidential debate will remind us just how much the spirit of dialog is absent from modernity's oldest democracy; and from political discourse at large.

Dialog and new media technology

A whole new chapter in the evolution of the dialogue was made possible by the new information technology. We illustrate an already developed research frontier by pointing to Jeff Conklin's book "Dialogue Mapping: Creating Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems", where Bohm dialogue tradition is combined with Issue Based Information Systems (IBIS), which Kunz and Rittel developed at UC Berkeley in the 1960s.

The Debategraph, which we already mentioned, is transforming our collective mind hands-on. Contrary to what its name may suggest, Debategraph is an IBIS-based dialog mapping tool. While he was the Minister for Higher Education in Australian government, Peter Baldwin saw that political debate was not a way to understand and resolve issues. So he decided to retire from politics, and with David Price co-founded and created Debategraph to transform politics, by changing the way in which issues are explored and decisions are made.

In Knowledge Federation, we experimented extensively with turning Bohm's dialog into a 'high-energy cyclotron'; and into a medium through which a community can find "a way to change course". The result was a series of so-called Key Point Dialogs. An example is the Cultural Revival Dialog Zagreb 2008. We are working on bringing its website back online.

Dialog as a tactical asset

When it comes to using the dialog as a tactical asset—as an instrument of cultural change toward the holotopia—two points need to be emphasized:

  • We define the dialog, and we insist on having a dialog
  • We design our situations, and we use the media, in ways make that deviations from the dialog obvious

When a dialog is recorded, and placed into the holotopia framework, violations become obvious—because the attitude of the dialog is so completely different! We may see how this made a difference in the Club of Rome's history, where the debate gave unjust advantage to the homo ludens turf players—who don't use "parrhesia", but say whatever will earn them points in a debate, and smile confidently, knowing that the "truth" of the power structure, which they represent, will prevail! The body language, however, when placed in the right context, makes this game transparent. See this example, where Dennis Meadows is put off-balance by an opponent.

Hence the dialog—when adopted as medium, and when mediated by suitable technology and camera work—becomes the mirror; it becomes a new "spectacle" (in Guy Debord's most useful interpretation of this word). We engage the "opinion leaders", and use the dialog to re-create the conventional "reality shows"—in a manner that shows the contemporary realities in a way in which they need to be shown:

  • When a dialog is successful, the result is timely and informative: We witness how our understanding and handling of core social realities are changing
  • When unsuccessful, the result is timely and informative in a different way: We witness the resistance to change; we see what is holding us back