Everybody knows that  really intimate conversation is only possible between two or three.  As soon as there are six or seven, collective language begins to dominate.

-Simone Weil 

Intimacy and Understanding

For a long time, I have dreamed of a renaissance in public dialogue where people could actually come together and speak openly about difficult topics.  

In large part, this desire arose in response to what I was observing on the internet.  Everyone seemed to be typing right past one another and trying to out-do one another with hot takes.

After a few years of experimenting with public dialogue formats (and even a few digital formats during the early part of the pandemic), I came to see that the quality of the conversation actually had very little to do with the platform (digital or physical) or even the leanings of the participants, but actually the size of the conversation.  

Large groups go sideways fast.  People get on tangents.  Individuals speak vaguely.  Self-protection runs high.  People pander to the perceived opinions of the group.  

In short, the conversation doesn't really go anywhere.  

Increasingly, I believe the French philosopher Simone Weil is right.  That public dialogues with larger groups, while useful in some contexts, simply aren't the right format for the kinds of constructive conversations we need to be having. 

Clancey Hilkene 

Immersioneer | founder