Part 41 of Prisoners of the Real
Information: The two phases of Dionysian process rest on the continual revealing of meaning through the sharing of qualitative information. Two types of information are sought: some relates to philosophical issues, some to practical affairs. The first is ends-oriented, the second oriented toward means, as the ideal choice becomes real.
The use of dialogue and testimony, general searches prior to directed inquiries, and associational techniques for brainstorming aim at expanding the group's tolerance for ambiguity. The inspired idea, which may come from the guide or any member of the group, initiates an interactive process during which each person follows a different path beyond the borders of current experience.
The idea, a synthesis of past observations and reflective "seeing," is a reference point to which everyone can relate as they develop their own meanings and strategies. Depending on a person's history and belief system, individual purpose-finding may move one either toward increased order or chaos, unity or individuation. The guide poses questions that enhance variations in viewpoint. Common information bases will be discovered along the way, leading to sub-group searches during the system-building phase.
In the diagram on the left, the vertical axis from chaos to order may also symbolize the point at which purpose is defined and accepted by the group. Boundaries are most permeable at this point, and the group is most aware of its internal similarities and differences, as well as its environment. As purpose-finding gives way to system-building, the scope of information admitted gradually narrows – first through individual searches, next through directed searches, and then through the designing and testing of programs. When a group of programs is synthesized and approved, the group has refocused the inspired idea and made it an operational reality.
At this point, two things occur. First, the idea and the new reality – the purpose and the program – are compared. Second, participants start to move toward firmer roles based on their experiences up to this point. Roles fall between the poles of generalization and specialization. Some people seek to vary their tasks, perhaps moving between sub-groups or acting as liaisons between them, or between the group and its environment. Others prefer to focus on one or a limited number of tasks, giving undivided attention to the skillful application of technique. As work proceeds, the "generalizers" and "specializers" move toward realization of the inspired idea, oriented either to the process or the product. The cycle is complete when some new idea emerges from the mingling of these orientations.
The information generated during purpose-finding is matched with both emerging processes and products. Information gathered during system-building is a common resources for both specializing and generalizing behaviors. The guide acts as a gateway, widening and narrowing the channels of information as the work continues.
Communication Styles: Interactions in a Dionysian system are most effective when they stress uniqueness, attraction, and intentionality. Images and languages developed for the specific moment in group life tend to increase inventiveness. At that point all communication is viewed as ultimately subjective. Nevertheless, it must help to highlight the peculiar nature of the current system – in other word, its uniqueness – as well as providing inducements that attract people to participate in various activities.
Interactions with a unique orientation include descriptive dialogue that indicates tone, feelings concerning the setting, or the physical appearance of the subject, and eyewitness accounts of particular events. The use of superlatives and adjectives is encouraged, but can occasionally be superfluous. On the other hand, comments may also be delivered in a staccato fashion, abrupt and using few words. In written form, this may involve phrases punctuated with periods and dashes.
Attraction can be enhanced in several ways. Information might be presented in a strictly chronological order that provides details but postpones conclusion. An emphasis on situation tends to incite cumulative interest. Forms of parody might also be tried, or a mixture of sayings, current expressions, poems or songs. With either approach, figurative devices are valuable – metaphors, similes and figures of speech. There is a danger that the discussion can become trite; the line between a sharp epigram and a cliché is, after all, somewhat hazy. This type of interaction can also be somewhat habituating.
A number of tools are available to make communication an accurate reflection of personal intentions. The epigram – a concise expression emphasizing tone or moral – has already been mentioned. First and second person address, particularly in written communication, indicates a personal commitment or identification with what has been written. Guides may also use devices to sustain interest, discussing subjects on a topical basis with indefinite details, putting personal conclusions aside until the end. Questions present problems of collective interest or matters likely to provoke debate. Although they can lead to sometimes unnecessary delays, they are perhaps the most valuable tools used by Dionysian leaders to open communication lines for ideational dialogue.
In addition to these approaches, the guide and others ought to note non-verbal responses and use them as background data – or even discussion topics. The point is to increase the socio-emotive responsiveness of group members as a means of making tasks both more fulfilling and more creative.
Next: Time, Participation & Enabling
To read other chapters, go to Prisoners of the Real: An Odyssey