Loomio
Tue 17 Sep 2013

"Discussion" vs "Dialogue"

AI
Alanna Irving Public Seen by 164

What if we changed references to "discussion" on Loomio to "Dialogue" instead?

Discussion

mid-14c., "examination, investigation, judicial trial," from Old French discussion "discussion, examination, investigation, legal trial," from Late Latin discussionem (nominative discussio) "examination, discussion," in classical Latin, "a shaking," from discussus, past participle of discutere "strike asunder, break up," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + quatere "to shake" (see quash).

Meaning "a talking over, debating" in English first recorded mid-15c. Sense evolution in Latin appears to have been from "smash apart" to "scatter, disperse," then in post-classical times (via the mental process involved) to "investigate, examine," then to "debate."

Dialogue

See this encyclopedia entry

Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog) is a reciprocal conversation between two or more entities. The etymological origins of the word (in Greek διά (diá,through) + λόγος (logos,word,speech, concepts like flowing-through meaning) do not necessarily convey the way in which people have come to use the word, with some confusion between the prefix διά-(diá-,through) and the prefix δι-(di-, two) leading to the assumption that a dialogue is necessarily between only two parties.

A dialogue as a form of communication has a verbal connotation. While communication can be an exchange of ideas and information by non-verbal signals, behaviors, as the etymology connotes, dialogue implies the use of language. A dialogue is distinguished from other communication methods such as discussions and debates. While debates are considered confrontational, dialogues emphasize listening and understanding.


Dialogue is used in terms like "interfaith dialogue" which specifically allude to increasing shared understanding in a collaborative way. To me, dialogue implies everyone building on what others contribute, working toward something bigger than the sum of its parts, not just advocating an individual point of view.

Although individuals often put forward conflicting points of view and talk them through on Loomio, we're not trying to build a tool for debating in the sense of two opposing views trying to "win" against one another. This is also why we don't refer to stating a position on a proposal as "voting" because it's not about contention and majority rules. It's about building shared understanding.

Loomio is a platform for collaboration. For people with differing perspectives to come together and arrive at a solution better than any individual would have come up with on their own. It's not "A vs B, who wins?" It's A + B = C, which is better than either A or B.

I think Dialogue reflects that better than Discussion. I have rarely seen the term dialogue used for online forums or apps, which would set Loomio apart and spark thinking about how communication here is different.

What do you think?

MB

Matthew Bartlett Tue 17 Sep 2013

I like it

RDB

Richard D. Bartlett Tue 17 Sep 2013

I like it.

One thing to consider: currently "Discussion" refers to two different things. One is the name of this whole page, the other is the name of this left hand column where all the comments appear.

Personally I would prefer it if we had two names for these two different things. Maybe we could start by just changing the title on this column to "Dialogue", but the bigger entity would still be called a "Discussion"?

AI

Alanna Irving Tue 17 Sep 2013

I would go for "collaboration" or something for the whole page. Imagine a future where the big page includes "ideas" and other aspects of a collaboration. "Dialogue" is specifically about talking back and forth to build understanding.

MB

Matthew Bartlett Tue 17 Sep 2013

I know this is out of sync with others' visions, but I like the idea of this page being a 'meeting'.

AI

Alanna Irving Tue 17 Sep 2013

rendezvous :p

MN

max noble Tue 17 Sep 2013

Wow..good point...sounds good...

"To me, dialogue implies everyone building on what others contribute, working toward something bigger than the sum of its parts, not just advocating an individual point of view."

MN

max noble Tue 17 Sep 2013

Dialogue feels like brainstorming time

Discussion is is like analysis time

AT

Aaron Thornton Tue 17 Sep 2013

I like it too Alanna! Side by side - Discussion seems dry and arbitrary and Dialog rich and constructive... or maybe i'm just colouring it that way?

CT

Chris Taklis Tue 17 Sep 2013

Discussion and dialogue has 2 different meanings. I don't know what it is better, but both looks good.

RBW

Rachel B. Wickert Tue 17 Sep 2013

I prefer dialogue too. As @alannakrause suggested it could be used to make a point as long as anyone could trace the rationale back. In the field of sociology of knowledge production (kind of my field) they go further to distinguish monologic and dialogic dialogue. The former being a lecture like communication (rather hierarchical and linear) and the latter being based on reciprocity. http://www.bu.edu/sed/files/2010/11/HD.OConnor.pdf
I am not suggesting to use dialogic thought! That would be weird.

RBW

Rachel B. Wickert Tue 17 Sep 2013

This reminds me of a question I've had on the back of my mind for a while. I am aware that the verbal is dominant in decision-making processes. It is even more so in virtual platforms like Loomio where there is not much space for people who find it easier to express themselves in visual terms e.g. picture, music, etc. I feel that for my group it might create barriers.

AI

Alanna Irving Tue 17 Sep 2013

@rachelbwickert - great comments :)

I agree that multimedia dialogue is rich. You can already put attachments and images in Loomio comments, but making it even easier and more multimedia is definitely on the horizon (such as sound and video, previews of links, etc).

RBW

Rachel B. Wickert Tue 17 Sep 2013

@alannakrause That's great to know! I've tried to attach pictures to comments but without a preview it misses a big part of the purpose. You've put a picture above to explain how it could look like to have "dialogue" instead of "discussion". How can I do that?

MK

MJ Kaplan Tue 17 Sep 2013

I mentioned this issue just before I left - dialogue to replace discusssion- and am a proponent. Vivien mentioned future plans for users to tailor the terms so they are relevant to local meaning . We need to keep in mind cultural and other differences for terms. Alanna's description is familiar to me in my work but would not necessarily resonate for everyone. I'd suggest if you make the switch that you include a brief definition/clarification of the meaning of the term.

BK

Benjamin Knight Tue 17 Sep 2013

I like dialogue a lot! (and have been thinking about it ever since we talked with @mjkaplan about the root of discussion being the same as 'percussion', as a back and forth banging against).

The tricky thing might be deciding between Dialog (US) and Dialogue (UK) spelling.

Are some people going to wonder aloud what 'dialogyou' means?

BK

Benjamin Knight Tue 17 Sep 2013

@rachelbwickert, at the moment we've just implemented the first iteration of attaching files, so you can only attach things to comments.

A soon to come next step will be attaching files to the context panel, which will likely be followed with some kind of preview function.

Right now you can insert images into the context panel if you know a little trick that @alannakrause will be able to explain much better than myself :)

RG

Rob Guthrie Tue 17 Sep 2013

@rachelbwickert Attached images are now displayed inline.. It makes a big difference! Here is an example.

MN

max noble Wed 18 Sep 2013

I hate language...can we replace those words with icon(pictures) that would assist better representations?

MB

Matthew Bartlett Wed 18 Sep 2013

@maxnoble it would be cool to see a sketch/mockup of the icons you're imagining...

AT

Aaron Thornton Wed 18 Sep 2013

@matthewbartlett that information does seem ugly and a little unnecessary since we now know what the image is.
Could it be tool tipped behind the paperclip?

MB

Matthew Bartlett Wed 18 Sep 2013

@aaronthornton good idea

O

OpenLifeChallenge Thu 19 Sep 2013

I believe that dialogue should most often be preferred before discussion in an open source and free software project. One reason is because it goes hand-in-hand with the idea of a good rule within these projects to "be excellent with eachother".

There is also a lot of science into this from MIT's William Isaacs who is one of the front researchers and has made practical advise out of David Bohm's philosophies.

I think it can be groundbreaking, some organisations already work with it and it truly removes a possible "hostile" discussion. Please read the following below:

William N. Isaacs' take on dialogue
by Lorna Williams

Isaacs' working definition of dialogue is that it is a
discipline of collective thinking and inquiry, a process
for transforming the quality of conversation, and in
particular the thinking that lies beneath it. It is evident
in the articles I read that Isaacs' idea of dialogue

developed along the same lines as Bohm--he quotes

Bohm extensively. Others whose work was influential
include Buber, Kurt Lewin, Argyris, and Wittgenstein.

Sources: http://www.soapboxorations.com/ddigest/isaacs.html
http://www.spaceforlearning.com/docs/Speaking%20Together%20-%20Alison%20Jones%20Sep%2007.pdf

AI

Alanna Irving Fri 20 Sep 2013

@mawnt1as that was a most excellent comment! I love comments with citations :)

@benjaminknightloom is William N. Isaacs one of the people involved at the MIT lab Loomio has been working with at all?

Perhaps just changing the terminology, and therefore creating the opportunity to explain to users why we are using a term that may be unfamiliar to them is a great starting point.

I wonder how Loomio's software design could support the phases of dialogue?

  • Instability of the container is the initial phase when participants have concerns for safety and trust which they must move through, leading to

  • Instability in the container, when members struggle with polarization and conflict due to the clash of personally held beliefs and assumptions. It may take a lot of time to surface these conflicts. Suspending these beliefs can lead to

  • Inquiry in the container, with people inquiring into polarization and fragmentation. At this phase people often experience collective pain as the depth of disconnection is held by the group. This phase leads to

  • Creativity in the container, where new understandings based on collective perceptions emerge and people engage in more generative thinking together

MB

Matthew Bartlett Fri 20 Sep 2013

@alannakrause that is cool and all very congruent with a sketch of a typical discussion @vivienmaidabornloo did a few weeks back that I'm struggling to turn into a beautiful diagram

VM

vivien maidaborn Fri 20 Sep 2013

flows and enhances the dialogue flow. I also think moving between the stages of dialogue is a self initiation, the more someone one else defines them the less powerful they are. The Loomio retreat dialogue on Love and Power had acts of facilitation to initiate it but was largely self organizing throughout. I am interested in the lightest touch for the greatest impact in regard to this.

BK

Benjamin Knight Fri 20 Sep 2013

@alannakrause, William Isaacs isn't someone we've been in touch with, but after reading the article @mawnt1as posted, I think he should be :)

AI

Alanna Irving started a proposal Thu 26 Sep 2013

Suggest to change references to "discussion" to "dialogue" in Loomio Closed Sun 29 Sep 2013

This is a proposal to suggest a change in terminology from calling the comments section a "discussion" to a "dialogue". For people who are unfamiliar with the use of the term dialogue in this sense, it will create an opportunity to explain (via tool tips, help documentation, etc) this choice and get them thinking about how they can apply the concepts to their group conversations on Loomio. For people familiar with the term, it will be a strong signal that Loomio intentionally supports this mode of communication.

Agree - 14
Abstain - 14
Disagree - 14
Block - 14
19 people have voted (2%)
CT

Chris Taklis
Agree
Thu 26 Sep 2013

MC

Malcolm Colman-Shearer
Agree
Thu 26 Sep 2013

RBW

Rachel B. Wickert
Agree
Thu 26 Sep 2013

VM

vivien maidaborn
Agree
Thu 26 Sep 2013

Love it

RJ

Raphaël Jadot
Agree
Thu 26 Sep 2013

I agree with the word dialogue :) It's surprising first but better.

JL

Jon Lemmon
Agree
Thu 26 Sep 2013

CRH

Christopher R. Halbersma
Abstain
Fri 27 Sep 2013

Either seem good.

MN

max noble
Agree
Fri 27 Sep 2013

i concur

BK

Benjamin Knight
Agree
Fri 27 Sep 2013

I really like the thinking behind it, and would be really keen to do some user testing on lots of our language choices in the app

RDB

Richard D. Bartlett
Agree
Fri 27 Sep 2013

It feels more inviting and less judgemental.

JD

Jesse Doud
Disagree
Sat 28 Sep 2013

I agree that the word's meaning is more accurate for the type of communication we want to foster. Yet I'm concerned that using a term at the heart of the software that may require explanation may hinder massive user adoption.

AG

Anna Guenther
Disagree
Sat 28 Sep 2013

I think it might complicate explaining how Loomio works.

TA

Tracey Ambrose
Agree
Sat 28 Sep 2013

I agree with Richards comment about it feeling less judgmental

O

OpenLifeChallenge
Agree
Sat 28 Sep 2013

It is a natural step for Loomio but I think it might confuse participants unknowing of the difference thus it must be explained properly. It is however more suitable if the definition is what Loomio strives to enable within communication.

ST

Stacco Troncoso
Agree
Sat 28 Sep 2013

AT

Aaron Thornton
Agree
Sat 28 Sep 2013

nurturing.

RA

Ricardo Araújo
Disagree
Sat 28 Sep 2013

I think we could see any other options before making this change. Off course dialogue is a pretty word but more appropriate when we are talking about somethig where there is not a decision as a goal. I think it's better leave it as discussion for now

S

Simon
Disagree
Sat 28 Sep 2013

Having slept on it, I think it's better to use the term discussion for now. Not every decision will need dialogue and Loomio could be used in lots of contexts. Discussion is more generic and gives users the scope to decide how they communicate

DT

daniel tygel
Agree
Sun 29 Sep 2013

Great suggestion! That's the best way to create an environment for building consensus!!!

JD

Jesse Doud Sat 28 Sep 2013

It's unclear to me whether this proposal a suggestion to change all references of discussion to dialogue or if it's just the title of this column.

I'm thinking about discussion-centric loomio that would now be dialouge-centric loomio with 'start a dialouge' buttons everywhere.

Everyone knows what 'start a discussion' means. It's not clear whether people will know what 'start a dialouge' means. It may indeed be an opportunity to educate as some have suggested, but from a user experience standpoint, we do not want to have any uncertainty around the definition of the core of the software. A question mark tooltip next to the heading of the main input section of loomio would be a distraction.

I don't see a problem with the current word choice. Has anyone expressed unclarity about what it means to start a discussion? Because we will have heaps asking what it means to start a dialouge.

I believe we can have the same rich description of what a loomio discussion is (in situ help and on the help page) without changing the word to one that will be less clear to many.

Other reservations I have are:

  • Ben's point about the spelling of Dialog vs. Dialouge. To me as an American, the word itself just looks weird to me.

  • MJ's highlight of relevancy of the word in other languages / cultural groups

I'm sorry to jump in at the end of a proposal here, but that proposal closing soon email is really effective :)

S

Simon Sat 28 Sep 2013

Dialogue takes a collaborative approach; debate takes an oppositional “us vs. them” approach.
Dialogue works towards identification of common themes or common ground, where possible, while recognising and noting differences; debate emphasises different viewpoints and peoples’ divergent opinions.
Dialogue listens to find meaning and points of agreement with others’ views; debate listens to others to find flaws to argue against .
Dialogue is open to being wrong; debate means needing to be right.
Dialogue weighs and recognises the value of different approaches and alternatives; debate's need to win means “my view is right!”
Dialogue assumes that everyone can contribute to the answer and that the group can find it together; debate assumes there is a right answer and that one person has it.
Dialogue involves respect for others; debate involves arguing against other people’s views

S

Simon Sat 28 Sep 2013

On the other hand, Loomio is very much a decision-focused tool, something I very much like, and the term 'dialogue' is not used so much in the context of decision making. For me dialogue is about mutual exploration and understanding without any need to make a decision. So perhaps dialogue isn't the right term for Loomio!

S

Simon Sat 28 Sep 2013

The organisation I used to work for ran 2 public dialogue projects and 1 public deliberation. Although the public dialogues resulted in rich learning, improved relationships and mutual understand, decision makers didn't not necessarily find the more complex findings useful - they wanted to know what should be done.

That's why we moved to public deliberation:

"Deliberation can be distinguished from other forms of public involvement in its emphasis on individuals being willing to examine solutions in terms of a common best interest, i.e., the interest of one’s neighbourhood, community, or programme as a whole. Deliberation also presupposes that no individual holds the best answer to a public problem; rather, the process of structured conversation will yield optimal solutions for impacted parties and the public at large. Finally, deliberation differs from, for example, negotiation in that participants are usually not coming to the table with strong ideas about where they will or will not compromise on alternatives to accommodate the needs of others. Instead, participants come prepared to engage in the free and equal sharing of information that will assist everyone to arrive at reasonable, if not ultimately more just and practicable, outcomes." Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer and Lars Hasselblad Torres, Public Deliberation: A Manager’s Guide to Citizen Engagement.

I think its a good idea to deliberately use language that makes it clear Loomio is not about unfocused discussion or about antagonistic debate. In my experience, the publics I've worked with haven't been phased by the terms dialogue or deliberation.

MN

max noble Sat 28 Sep 2013

it would be cool to see a sketch/mockup of the icons you’re imagining…”

The Discussion logo would work…just make it bigger and brighter.

Don’t create anything new…just go look at what the big softwares are using and copy that. If they get pissed off …they are idiots…the world need a common image based icon communications system…tell them to stop fighting over IP like a bunch of kindergartens over a smartie

AI

Alanna Irving Sun 29 Sep 2013

I think the suggestion of the term "deliberation" is an interesting one!

@jessedoud - good comments with an eye to User Experience. Since you're arguing against changing the term, can you think of any proactive things we could do with user experience that would lead to the underlying goal of encouraging people to collaborate on constructive exchange and leave behind tactics and assumptions of conflict-based debate/discussion?

MB

Matthew Bartlett Sun 29 Sep 2013

I like 'deliberation'

JD

Jesse Doud Tue 1 Oct 2013

thanks @alannakrause. I think there are heaps of ways that we can attempt to encourage constructive exchange. The biggest point of contact I see is robust in situ & dedicated help. There is also discussion on tools that we can give the coordinator to facilitate expectations on discourse. We can also in the future flag public discussions that are the epitome of constructive dialog and show those off in creative ways. We can also blog about all this.

The last proposal was unclear about how far reaching the suggestion was. I think that changing all references to discussion would be shooting ourselves in the foot, making it more difficult to understand how to use loomio at a glance. I'm less adverse to changing the heading of this one column if the group feels it's the way to go, even though it may make for tricky comms.

JS

James Samuel Tue 15 Oct 2013

I was introduced to dialogue about 8 years ago on a trip to Zimbabwe, where I received a copy of a free-to-download document called "Mapping Dialogue"

http://www.collectivewisdominitiative.org/papers/pioneers_dialogue/00_all.pdf

In it the opening lines said it all for me.

Dialogue is a conversation with a centre, not sides.

It's a beautifully accessible document, with simplified definitions of ALL the different types of 'conversation', some of the definitions are quite enlightening. :-)

G

goob Tue 15 Oct 2013

I see I'm too late for the vote, but I prefer 'discussion'. 'Dialogue' is a good word for some situations, but doesn't fit the types of conversations which we have in the Diaspora community, in which anyone is welcome to join in and everyone's view carries equal weight; dialogues tend to be carried out between only two or three people, and possibly for the enlightenment or edification of a wider audience. That's not how we discuss things in Diaspora.

JS

James Samuel Tue 15 Oct 2013

"dialogues tend to be carried out between only two or three people"

Hi Goob - where do these numbers come from? Is this a personal perception when you think of the word dialogue?

G

goob Tue 15 Oct 2013

Sorry, I meant that the word ‘dialogue’ carries the sense of an interaction between two or three people or parties. For an interaction between a larger number, 'discussion' seems more natural.