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In this paper I have brought together ideas from many fields from which I have developed my own technique, theory and philosophy of dialogue. I have added to Starhawk’s (1990) model of group leadership the concept of circles of engagement: malice & indifference, willingness and alignment. To Keirsey’s (1989) model of temperaments, I added a fifth temperament, the Alchemist. For Isaacs’ (1999a & 1999b) models, I surfaced the fifth practice of cultivation and added a fifth principle of transformation, of change. I brought together the ideas in a dialogue of thought from which they have been transformed and from which my own new theory and model has emerged. This new theory has already been useful to me as a practitioner of dialogue and as a designer of soft-system engagements and I look forward to further opportunity for praxis.

The fifth practice is cultivation, and the principle that informs this practice is the principle of change, of transformation. On an intra-personal level, this is personal mastery. On an inter-personal level, this is coaching and transformative leadership. On a group level, this is the cultivation of all five practices of dialogic leadership to elicit the emergence of all five principles. It is the practice of dialogue to embody these principles by working to help others work toward embodying these principles and practices in themselves.

In the beginning of this project I was guided by an overall question of how to cross thresholds of difference to meet with inimical others. I believe that meeting the inimical other is made possible through the practice of dialogue. This practice is for the purpose of human growth on a collective level, and to transform the self, others and the world. This dialogic practice of personal mastery, transformative leadership and dedication to the transformation of the world is a way to create peace in the world, our relationships and in our selves.

Game Theory

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.

Depth Psychology

The roles or practices within the dialogic model exist in relationships that could be examined through another hermeneutic project. As I have engaged with the theoretical framework of the archetypal model, I have come to believe that I could enhance and enrich the model if I were to explore archetypal and depth psychology. I believe that including notions of shadow roles could further expand the circles of engagement, of alignment and willingness. Keirsey includes Paracelsus’ idea of monstrous and infantile characteristics in his discussion of the temperaments (1998). In Starhawk’s (1990 & 1999) work there are gilded and rust, inflated and deflated versions of the iron pentacle, which is connected to her model of group leadership.

A study of depth psychology would relate to the archetypes of dialogic process. My proposed theory and model of dialogue would be enhanced by combining the archetypal model with the mythic structures of the iron pentacle as personal mastery, and pentacle of pearl as world journey creating opportunity to develop a mythic narrative of dialogue as a life process. This would further the attempt to develop dialogue as a practice, as suggested by Isaacs:

“The practices I recommend for dialogue are not fully developed in the same way that some others mentioned are. After all, yoga and the healing arts have been under conscious development for several thousands of years. I believe that dialogue, to be effective in groups and in larger social settings, requires a similar kind of development, a set of practices that can help us to understand it and let it blossom” (1999a, p80).

Future Directions

From a hermeneutic ethnographic project I have developed a theory and model of dialogue that I have brought back into praxis in my own real world engagements, but more can be done.

In early 2003, a colleague and I developed a survey, based on the early formation of the archetypal model of dialogic process, attempting to show a connection between Myers-Briggs and the archetypes. Using what may turn out to be an overly complex interpretation, we showed a slight statistical correlation in our limited sample of respondents between the archetypal roles and the personality types of Myers-Briggs (Bell & Fenske, 2003). In 2004, I used an early working definition of dialogue in a case study, which was comprised of the theory of enabling dialogical space and the theory of dialogical gifts, to evaluate several places in Ireland. (Bell, 2004b) Since 2004, and including the case study in Ireland, I have been using my working definition of dialogue as a framework for design. I am using my working definition to test and develop spaces and processes of engagement that are dialogical. Using the definition as a framework, I am exploring the implications using more specific design questions such as:

How can dialogical environments be created that encourage emerging dialogue for the purpose of building and maintaining community cohesion and identity in the face of adaptive challenges?

I offer these as examples of how my working definition has become for me a practical tool in design of physical and social places, a theoretical model of dialogue and a frame through which to view the world. I have begun an exploration of the design implied by this model as it relates to the philosophy, theory and techniques of designing social and physical places for dialogue.

This is only the beginning. This is a theoretical framework based in an iterative praxis, but in order to grow and be relevant I must continue with real world, practical engagements to continue the loop from theory back to praxis. I also believe that this theoretical framework, this theory and model of dialogue I propose, would benefit from further study, especially depth psychology and game theory.