Background
In dialogic communication approaches, difference and conflict are generally viewed as dynamic, necessary and positive forces in meaning-making, inspired by Bahktin's view of dialogue as "communication between simultaneous differences" (Clark and Holquist 1984: 9). Through the notions of "tensionality" and "tension", dialogic communication theory posits that meanings are produced dialectically in the "tension" between different and often opposing and contradictory voices. And in theory-based practical interventions designed by researchers acting as consultants (such as public dialogue processes on scientific developments), the declared aim is to cultivate and build constructively on conflict and the tension between maintaining one's own position and being open to the position of the other (Anderson et al, 2004; Pearce and Pearce, 2001, 2004).

Objective
The proposed paper presents an analysis of a) conceptualisations of "tension" in dialogic communication theory and b) how moves towards consensus and conflict are managed in both theory and practice and the consequences for relations between the different actors and for the outcome.

Methods
I analyse a corpus of academic texts that give accounts of different approaches to dialogic communication theory and practice using discourse analytic methods (eg Jørgensen and Phillips 2002) and concepts emanating from dialogic communication theory (including the concepts of "tension" and "tensionality").

Results
A main result is that, despite key differences across dialogic approaches, it is a general tendency - both in analysis and practice - to downplay the implications of the operation of the tension between conflict and consensus for relations between the involved actors and the outcome of dialogic processes. This is problematic, given the claims of dialogic approaches to centre difference theoretically and to cultivate it practically and given the ideals and ambitions of dialogic approaches with respect to the democratisation of research production and communication.

Conclusion
The paper argues for the further development of notions of tension in dialogic communication theories and further discussion of the implications of the tension between conflict and consensus operating in dialogic science communication practices for the outcome of dialogic processes, including (power) relations between the different participants (including the researcher-consultant)

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

In the tension between conflict and consensus in dialogic communication theory and practice

Louise Phillips   Roskilde University

Background
In dialogic communication approaches, difference and conflict are generally viewed as dynamic, necessary and positive forces in meaning-making, inspired by Bahktin's view of dialogue as "communication between simultaneous differences" (Clark and Holquist 1984: 9). Through the notions of "tensionality" and "tension", dialogic communication theory posits that meanings are produced dialectically in the "tension" between different and often opposing and contradictory voices. And in theory-based practical interventions designed by researchers acting as consultants (such as public dialogue processes on scientific developments), the declared aim is to cultivate and build constructively on conflict and the tension between maintaining one's own position and being open to the position of the other (Anderson et al, 2004; Pearce and Pearce, 2001, 2004).

Objective
The proposed paper presents an analysis of a) conceptualisations of "tension" in dialogic communication theory and b) how moves towards consensus and conflict are managed in both theory and practice and the consequences for relations between the different actors and for the outcome.

Methods
I analyse a corpus of academic texts that give accounts of different approaches to dialogic communication theory and practice using discourse analytic methods (eg Jørgensen and Phillips 2002) and concepts emanating from dialogic communication theory (including the concepts of "tension" and "tensionality").

Results
A main result is that, despite key differences across dialogic approaches, it is a general tendency - both in analysis and practice - to downplay the implications of the operation of the tension between conflict and consensus for relations between the involved actors and the outcome of dialogic processes. This is problematic, given the claims of dialogic approaches to centre difference theoretically and to cultivate it practically and given the ideals and ambitions of dialogic approaches with respect to the democratisation of research production and communication.

Conclusion
The paper argues for the further development of notions of tension in dialogic communication theories and further discussion of the implications of the tension between conflict and consensus operating in dialogic science communication practices for the outcome of dialogic processes, including (power) relations between the different participants (including the researcher-consultant)

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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