Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Big Data


In a post from a few weeks ago I stated that the term “research” is often narrowly defined in the arts industry, at least that part of the industry controlled by funders and agencies. I argued for a broader definition of what constitutes data (big or otherwise). My data, for example, come from the historical archive and from a variety of contemporary narrative sources that provide information … [Read more...]

Crossing the Research Divide


A few weeks ago I was invited to present on my concept of Arts Talk at the University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center. (Here’s the link to the video of my talk if you’re interested.) Among the many valuable aspects of my Chicago visit was a stimulating dinner conversation with Executive Director Betty Farrell and Research Manager Jennifer Novak-Leonard about the definition of arts research. … [Read more...]

Divining “Artistic Excellence”


In the arts industry, “artistic excellence” is routinely posited as an empirical fact—a thing outside of our individual heads and hearts that is locatable, measurable, quantifiable and justifiable. Like thirsty shamens with divining rods, somehow those of us with aesthetic expertise can locate artistic excellence through the vibrations we feel when we get near it. I’m skeptical. First of all, I … [Read more...]

Crack-Up: Taste, Anxiety and American Populism


In a post from early February I brought up our collective anxiety over the rules of taste and promised to explore the issue in greater detail, but then got sidetracked with other topics. Yesterday morning (while looking for ways to avoid a big pile of end-of-semester grading), I wandered across a 1946 film noir called Crack-up showing on TCM. The story focuses on an art critic and “anti-snobbery … [Read more...]

Silence or Violence


At the college where I teach I’ve recently had some interesting experiences with the concept of nonviolent communication. The term was coined by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg some forty years ago, the result of his experience as a civil rights activist and his continuing interest in peace work. According to the Center for Nonviolent Communication website, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is based … [Read more...]

The Talking Cure, Part V (effective facilitation)


In my observation, the best audience-centered interpretive experiences are rooted in effective facilitation. But here’s the key—the facilitator is an instrument dedicated to creating a hospitable learning environment, not an ego looking to be fulfilled. The facilitator does not make the meaning and give it to an audience . The facilitator establishes the environment and the tools for artists and … [Read more...]

The Talking Cure, Part IV (powerful questioning and attentive listening)

doctor and patient

In the first part of Chapter 5 of my new book, I look at two key aspects of productive talk: powerful questioning and effective listening. In the second part of the chapter I survey various techniques for questioning and listening, argumentation, and debate as well as the role that personal responses—ideas, feelings, emotions, life stories—can play in the meaning making process. I end the chapter … [Read more...]

The Talking Cure, Part III (productive talk)

RobertFrost stamp

I talk in order to understand; I teach in order to learn. ~Robert Frost As I wrote in my last post, the Arts Talk model envisions an environment where a variety of forms of talk, from dialogue to discussion to debate, are not only possible but also are common. While dialogue as a mechanism for achieving consensus and greater understanding is a key goal for engendering engagement around the … [Read more...]

The Talking Cure, Part II (discussion and debate)

debating cartoon

Conversation is a way of cooperating with other people in a public way. It is a reciprocal undertaking. In participating in a spontaneous social conversation, for instance, we engage in a culturally determined and understood set of rules (you talk and I listen, then I talk and you listen). The word itself refers to a structure of turn-taking between speaker and listener. The Latin roots—conversari … [Read more...]

The Talking Cure, Part One (networking)

quote bubbles

Talk defines our culture and our daily lives (an average person talks from six to twelve hours per day). In the next several posts I’m going to explore the nature and function of talking and ask some key questions about the role of productive talk in creating a more vibrant arts ecology. As I argue in Audience Engagement and the Role of Arts Talk in the Digital Era, productive talk (whether it is … [Read more...]