I believe that an exploration of game theory would enrich my understanding of the archtypal model I have proposed. I suspect that a rich interpenetration between this archtypal model and game theory would offer insights into group dynamics within the dialogic process as they enact the roles and practices of this model.

When I envision the way in which individuals embody a role or roles within the archetypal model, I also see that this relationship is not static but that an individual may have personal strategies in how to work within a group that involves switching strategies or in creating groupings with individuals that embody other roles. An image that comes to my mind is from an acting exercise that is intended to develop an awareness of the dynamic balance between people on stage during a performance. This exercise involves actors standing in a circle and imagining that the floor inside this circle is a surface that floats on some liquid, like oil or lava.

Imagine a group of people standing around a platform that’s floating in a pool. If one person steps on this platform, the whole thing is thrown into imbalance and change. They can move around the platform until they find a spot where they can stand. However, when the next person steps on the platform the whole thing is once again thrown into imbalance and change. These two people then need to find places where they can stand on the platform that balances. This process continues until everyone is on the platform.

There are several ways that this system can be balanced. Everyone can stand on the outside edge, everyone can stand in the center, or the combination of everyone’s individual position has to equal out. If one person then moves to the very outer edge either everyone else also moves to the outer edges or they adjust their individual positions to take into account this change. If everyone on the platform except one person wants to get together they can all move towards a point slightly off center that balances the odd man out. Everyone else can connect without requiring the other person to move from the outer edge. The only thing necessary is that those wanting to connect agree to move toward that off center balance. The odd man out is free to stay at the outer edges or to join everyone else in moving toward the center.

The more people on the platform that agree to move to a place where they can balance together the closer that place will be to the actual center of the platform. However, the fewer people there on the platform willing to come together, the farther away from the center the willing will find a balance point which responds to someone hanging out at the outside edge.

Therefore, as a metaphor for dialogue, the project to widen my circle of compassion is also an attempt to invite more people on the platform to balance with me in order to allow me to move closer to the true center in alignment. If I can balance against the "odd man out," such as the unwilling or those willing but not able to change, with greater numbers of people interested in balancing together, then the equilibrium is more stable and closer to the center. If I don't widen my circle of compassion, then I will be forced toward the outer edges to find balance and equilibrium. It will be easier for others to move me toward the outer edges.

This example of seeking balance on a platform is a thought experiment that I believe demonstrates group dynamics in relation to the archetypal dialogic process. Individual and group behavior while engaged in the dialogic process may be greatly enhanced by both a study of game theory and also a continued project of bringing this theory and model of dialogue full circle into praxis.

Posted by John Bell on December 10, 2006
Tags: The Fifth Principle of Dialogue

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