Balance advocacy with inquiry in blogs?

“Balance advocacy—making a statement—with inquiry—seeking clarifications and understanding” is a basic guideline of the Dialogue Process. “In advocating do not impose your opinion, rather simply offer it as such. In inquiry seek clarification and a deeper level of understanding, not the exposure of weakness.”  In the Dialogue Process, structured turn-taking allows participants to listen well to each other—as well as to their own thoughts as they form in response to what they hear.  The inquiry-balancing-advocacy guideline might even be extended to put advocacy aside (e.g., by taking a moment to write down any strong opinion rather than speaking it out loud) unless it takes the form of a statement to prepares the ground for a question or puzzle we’re chewing on.

For example, I noted in a recent discussion that the anti-feminist argument of the ’80s and 90s that feminist talk hurt women by turning them into victims has given way to incessant victim talk on the tea-party right.  I backed this up by exclaiming about the support for Bristol Palin in Dancing with the Stars where bloggers crowed that they’d just show those liberals who only wanted to bring Bristol down to get back at the Palins.  A nice juicy example of victim-talk—whatever happened to the possibility that Bristol might be voted out by those who recognized the other competitors were better dancers?  But still a discussion stopper when I brought it up. I realized afterward that I should have conveyed my puzzle at the shift from the 1980s to the 2010s for I don’t have a good handle on how this came about.  Perhaps the pro-Bristol Palin bloggers could have been mentioned, but not to show that I have a good point—instead to simply make concrete the situation I’m puzzling over.  An inquiry tone would have been more likely, I think, to stimulate listeners to join me in fleshing out and chewing over the puzzle.

My puzzle for this blog post is should blogs be written with the inquiry-balancing-advocacy guideline in mind?  In contrast, the norm for blogs and, even more for comments on blogs, seems to be advocate, assert, blurt, opinionate…  My own blog posts are not quick gut reactions of the day (or hour), but I do use them to lay out positions I’ve developed.  My thinking is crystallized in blog posts, more than left in the air for others to breathe in and perhaps cough out (to continue the mix of orally-mediated metaphors in this post).  There is a potential inquiry yin in the expository yang, however.  My stated purpose in blogging is to “expose my work more widely, including unpublished work, in the hope that kindred thinkers might come across it and make contact.”  That is, I hope to elicit connection, conversation, and possible collaboration with others interested in critical inquiry and reflective practice, especially through about the life and environmental sciences in their social context (see companion blog).

I wonder if the O.R.I.D. format of focused conversations could be adapted to the writing of inquiry-emphasizing blogs.  The Objective O would be what I see as supportable by evidence or reasoning, the Reflective R would be how does that feel or what does it remind us of?  The Interpretive I would then be what questions or puzzle emerge from the O and R.  Finally, the Decisional D would be the specific steps in inquiry might be taken to address those questions and puzzles.

Stay tuned to see if I get to construct blog posts in that format.

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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