Wednesday, 17 January 2007

One sided conversations

I'm very interested in creativity and comedy. I've performed both stand-up and improvised comedy for a number of years. It's these persuits that started me as a wanderer. It's where I go to think up material or work out what it is I'm doing right and wrong as a performer. I state this here because it will help explain the inevitable diversions of this Blog away from places to plonk your arse, into my mental meanderings.

Today I had this insight: Any talk or public speech is a one sided conversation.

From improvisation I have learnt to think of conversation as a series of status transitions. Each statement attempts to change the relative status of the speaker with regards to the other people involved. The theory seems to be bourne out by observation.

An example: The difference between "Could I look at the book" and "Give me that book" is that the latter is a high status demand, whilst the former is a low status request. A reply of "No" raises the status of the responder: I control this book, I have the power. A reply of "I'm sorry, have the book" might be considered low status: Take the book, you're more worthy of it than me. This is a very simple example, in reality their are always nuances of body language, relationship and situation involved. It's an interesting way to analyse comedy, and a tool widely used in improvisation.

So back to my revelation: A talk or public speech is a one sided conversation. Does that mean that the speaker has freedom to continually effect status change? Or is it impossible to effect that change without feedback? Is the feedback of the crowd a form of group to individual conversation? For a speaker to be interesting should they be aiming at status neutrality, or should they try to raise or lower their status?

These are half formed ideas that I shall try to comment more on soon... when I've had a chance to cogitate.

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