REVIEW COORDINATOR: Andrea Walsh
Scaling the Ivory Tower: Creating Dialogic Encounters between the Public and Universities
I will draw some connections between the modes of dialogue evinced in Buber’s work (1947/2002) – genuine dialogue, technical dialogue, and monologue disguised as dialogue – and the ‘dialogue’ characteristic of the interactions between universities and the general public. As Buber describes (1947/2002), ‘technical dialogue’ is that which is conducted for, and limited to, a particular purpose. The other is not recognised as a ‘Thou’ but as an ‘It’, as someone who can be used as a means to an end. There is no reciprocity in such dialogue, and as Buber writes, ‘the concern is only with what is communicated and not with the partners in the dialogue themselves’ (1947/2002, loc.164).
Monologue that is disguised as dialogue, the third of Buber’s modes, is even less inclusive of the other. What appears to be a conversation is in fact nothing more than mere ‘speechifying’, whereby nothing of import is communicated between the parties, and they are speaking to themselves as much as to the other (Buber, 1999, p.79). For academics dedicated to ‘public engagement’, there is a danger that making their research accessible may reduce their interactions with the public to the realm of ‘technical dialogue’, or even monologue, as linking such activity to ‘research impact’ inevitably turns public engagement into yet another tick-box exercise in the marketised Higher Education sector.
Whilst all three forms of dialogue are necessary to human life, it is only by engaging in genuine dialogue with the other that a mutual relation of