Conversational Realities Revisited: Life, Language, Body and World
by John Shotter
Taos Institute Publications, 2008
Price: $25.00 US plus shipping and handling
Paperback, 204 pages
Conversational Realities Revisited is a new edition of John Shotter’s 1993 book Conversational Realities. Like the first edition, it contests the traditional scientific view that naturally occurring psychological and sociological realities of a systematic and structured kind are to be discovered underlying appearances. Instead, it claims that such orderly ‘realities’ are both socially constructed and sustained in existence only within the context of people’s disorderly, everyday conversational activities. However, this second edition is much more oriented toward practical issues than the first.
Central to it, is a focus on people’s spontaneous, living, bodily responsiveness to the expressive movements of the others around them, and the dialogically-structured nature of the events occurring in the meetings between them. Due to the irreversibility of living processes of growth and development, such events occur always for another first time. Thus, instead of patterns and regularities, instead of seeking to solve problems, our task becomes the more practical one of struggling to create new ‘pathways’ forward into the uniquely new circumstances we create for ourselves as we all live out our lives together.
From a Deeper Place
October 25, 2011
Shotter's book is a wonderful exploration of what it means to try to understand our meaning as we live together with others. I once wrote, "the play of life is not written before we play it. It is written as we play it." (from my book RIDING THE CURRENT: HOW TO DEAL WITH THE DAILY DELUGE OF DATA) When writing, the words sometimes emerge on the page by themselves. What John Shotter does in this book is give the background to why my words are true. As I read Shotter, I could see that the words I had written several years ago had come from a deeper place than even I had imagined. I am most grateful for the academic underpinnings that he has so generously offered in this book.
If you are interested in the idea of a life is one lived in the melee of place, time, people, events – all coalescing into meaning from our relationships of each with each – then you will find this book illuminating. At the very end of the book, he says, "we cannot plan our next step ahead of time, we must find the relevant features influencing our next step in what becomes present to us as we take each step." See what I mean?
— Madelyn Blair (Jefferson, MD USA)