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The Art of Conversation – Interdisciplinarity

What is interdisciplinarity? Opinions differ. The Collins English Dictionary matter-of-factly defines it as “the quality or state of involving more than one discipline”, while the Oxford English Dictionary seems to spurn its very existence, drawing the line at having been forced to accept the adjective “interdisciplinary” into the modern English lexicon.

To many sceptical researchers diligently advancing their own well-defined subdiscipline, it is the latest in a long line of unrigorous, unhelpful sentiments foisted upon them by trendy academic administrators anxious to demonstrate how modern they are.

To many of those same academic administrators, on the other hand, it is a vital, often underused mechanism to prod typically tunnel-visioned investigators into absorbing new techniques and ideas. (more…)


The Art of Conversation – Storytelling

Subjectivity is often frowned upon by serious scholars. After all, the story goes, what really matters is the objective merits of the insight or experimental result, not the individual path taken in reaching it.

But history tells another story. Throughout time and place, human societies have varied widely in their forms of government, religious orientation, economic structure, scientific acumen, cultural practices, and even moral code. But one commonality links us all: storytelling. From Homer to Hollywood, every human society that we know of has placed a high value on the intrinsically compelling nature of a good tale. (more…)

The Art of Conversation – Serendipity

At Ideas Roadshow, I tell people incessantly, we don’t do “interviews”, we do “conversations”. But what does that mean, exactly?  Just some clever promo-speak? An unwarranted presumption of equality? Not at all. It is, in fact, simply an accurate description of what is going on.

Interviews involve two people engaged in well-established roles: the interviewer and the interviewee. Often the interviewer is a journalist who rightly sees her role as that of the hard-nosed independent arbiter, keeping the interviewee honest and summarily bringing him up short when he descends to the level of propaganda or false statements. It is a dynamic we are all familiar with, particularly in a political setting: a head of state sits down with a top journalist and is asked tough questions about his record: Has he fulfilled his election promises? What does he think about his worryingly low poll numbers? What mistakes has he made? (more…)