World Café Prompts Discussion on Terrorism and Communication

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On October 21, 2014 from 5:00 to 7:30 pm, Dr.’s Cecile Garmon and Tammy Jeffries of WKU’s Communication Department brought three classes together to engage in a World Café conversation. The World Café is an intentional way to create a living network of conversations around “questions that matter.”

It is a methodology which enables (12-1200!) people to think together and intentionally create new, shared meaning and collective insight. Although people have been meeting in ways sharing the same spirit of the World Café for centuries, the actual methodology was ‘discovered’ and formalized by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs in 1995. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been meeting in World Café style conversations across the world.

The Cue Time Café in Bowling Green, served as our official World Café site offering appetizers and beverages for the guests to enjoy while chatting. Café tables were lined with large sheets of paper and colored markers which were used to help the four to five guests and hosts at each table engage in deeply participative, high-quality conversational rounds. After twenty minutes of conversation at one table the guests were encouraged to find a new table with different participants and engage in conversation at that table.

This networking and conversational cross-pollination explored fives questions written by the students in Dr. Garmon’s Course, COMM 577, Cultural Terrorism and Communication, and focused on issues in terrorism.

Dr. Jeffries, three WKU graduate students (Daniel Chick, Jia Pie, Tyler Rife) and Sophomore Rita Nyandeng Kuanyin, served as conversation table hosts. The guests, students in Dr. Jeffries’ COMM 348 Interpersonal Communication and COMM 463 Intercultural Communication courses, moved from table to table exploring each question and creating “Moments of Magic.” (The human “magic” arose in the conversations and exchanges, as they moved from one to another conversation, evolving a theme or deepening a question.)
The questions explored that evening, were 1). What does it mean to live in a “time of terror?” 2). After 9/11, the use of “good” and “evil” as a metaphor became more pervasive to describe actions, governments, and people. Why do we use this metaphor? 3). How has terrorism redefined the concept ofcommunity (i.e. neighborhood community, national community, and global community)? Why? 4). Can terrorists terrorize without technology? 5). And technology is interconnected and interrelated to our humanness. How does using technology for surveillance affect our humanness?

The World Café is based on a core assumption that the knowledge and wisdom that we need is already present and accessible. Working with the World Café, we can bring out the collective wisdom of the group – greater than the sum of its individual parts – and channel it towards positive change. Indeed those who participated in this evening’s event reported to have fully enjoyed the Café and are eager to engage in more World Café style conversations in the future.

As Margaret Mead once said: Never doubt that small groups of committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

Parts of this write up were taken directly from:
Bojer, M. M., Roehl, H., Knuth, M., Magner, C. (2008). Mapping Dialogue: Essential tools for social change. Taos Institute Publications. Chagrin Falls: OH

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