Team members: Irena Kuntonen, Mari Pelkonen, Markus Liukka and Elias Vuoksenmaa

Writers are experts from Tampere higher education community

Hello from KohinaKampus podcast team!

What is dialogue? What isn’t it? What would a university look like, if it entailed learning dialogue? These are just some of the questions that we pondered in our podcast episode on dialogue as a phenomenon. During our project, we have had the chance to do podcast episodes about several interesting subjects – to name a few, we have already recorded discussions about education export, translation activism and the internationalisation of students with amazing experts. But our content on dialogue has been in a league of its own. We have even scored world class experts as our podcast guests.

Philosopher, researcher and dialogue instructor Kai Alhanen has done ground-breaking work in Finland to advance the dialogicity of Finnish society. He came over to our recording studio to tell about his perspectives on dialogue to our coach, and the conversation that lasted for an hour and a half was so golden that without the restrictions provided by physical exhaustion and train schedules, we would have loved to listen to it double that time. In addition, we got to execute a videocall with perhaps the world’s biggest dialogue gurus, Peter Garrett and Jane Ball. Both have worked with dialogue for decades and founded the Academy of Professional Dialogue, an international community of dialogue, with others in 2017. It was the cooperation of Garrett with the theoretical physicist and philosopher David Bohm in the 1980s that really shaped the modern concept of dialogue.

Dialogue as a term is sometimes used wrong in the depths of society and social media, which is why this kind of talk about dialogue is of great importance. To be able to use dialogue right, we need to understand its definition. At its core, dialogue is conversation with an aim at understanding. During dialogue, it is important to freeze your own preconceptions and truly listen to the other person instead of just waiting for your own turn to speak. However, the end goal is not necessarily a consensus of any kind. Even more important when defining dialogue is perhaps defining what it isn’t. Dialogue is conversation, but all conversation isn’t dialogue. Dialogue is also very different from a debate. Even our experts emphasised that dialogue isn’t suitable for every situation and it must be used with care. It’s not a natural vessel for decision-making. The person building a dialogic space must also be responsible with how dialogue is used. It’s also relevant to remember that dialogue is a skill that requires a lot of practice and that can be improved throughout your life. It’s worth it, however, because with the help of responsible dialogue we can build understanding in all aspects of society and avoid conflicts and echo chambers. We have a lot of disasters and conflicts in our world that are caused by the way we think and talk with each other.

If dialogue is so important and a phenomenon that touches us all, why don’t we more actively pursue learning it in universities? To students, dialogue skills would be incredibly useful both during studies and later in life. For instance, Alhanen had a clever idea about switching between dialogue and debate and back when discussing seminar works. This would ensure a diverse and deep understanding and provide practice for different interaction skills. We also think that dialogue between disciplines should be improved. As a result, we would have not only deep interdisciplinary understanding but also a fruitful and participative culture for high-quality thinking.

For the podcast, we already have almost two and a half hours of raw material. It will be challenging to start editing, as the content is almost pure gold. For this reason, we plan on publishing side-track versions, so everyone can get to listen to the entire conversations depending on your level of English and Finnish. Despite editing, we will probably have at least two different episodes. With them, you can acquaint yourself with dialogue led by our top experts.

Thanks for our dialogue episode belong to our coach Jussi Hannunen and especially Timo Nevalainen, who let us borrow his expertise and network. But most of all, thank you to our guests Kai Alhanen, Jane Ball and Peter Garrett.