Reclaiming Conversations?

“Reclaiming conversations, that’s the next frontier.” — Sherry Turkle‘s [1] concluding line to her TEDxUIUC 2011 presentation Alone Together.

This morning David O’Hara’s Can I Ask Questions In Church? [2] spurred me to read Jaweed Kaleem’s Keeping Alive The Big Questions [3]. In Kaleem’s resource rich article I once again came across Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT. As you may remember from the Emerging Scholars Network Facebook Wall, I posted her TED2012 presentation Connected, but alone? and the below video (Innovation of Loneliness) inspired by her book Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other (2012).

In response to the moving story from the academy which begins Keeping Alive The Big Questions, Turkle comments:

“We have stripped away so many of the conditions that make conversations like these flourish. And the condition that makes it flourish, in many cases, is the uninterrupted full attention to each other,” said Turkle, who has spent the three years interviewing dozens of people from various walks of life about what they talk about with friends and how they do it for an upcoming book called Reclaiming Conversation. “These conversations are what college students are missing, they’re what people at work are missing, they’re what we’re all missing.”

Transformative Conversations: A Guide to Mentoring Communities among Colleagues in Higher Education by Peter Felton, H-Dirksen L. Bauman, Aaron Kheriaty, and Edward W. Taylor (Jossey-Bass, 2013).

As we explore the relationship of on-line, local, and periodic (local, conferencing, and on-line) interactions, several of members of InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministry have been considering Transformative Conversations [4]. Note: Click here for a brief review of Transformative Conversations, by Bob Trube on his blog, i.e., Bob on Books: Thoughts on Books, Reading, and Life.

Yesterday before a lunch conversation with several faculty on a section of The Bible, The Verdict of History: A Journey In The British Museum & The British Library, I had a long conversation with a retired pastor. What a privilege to hear how he continues to rejoice in the blessing InterVarsity has been to him across the decades: from becoming a Christ follower while a student at Drexel to his reading of InterVarsity Press publications to his current interactions with authors/speakers such as Claremont Graduate University Professor of Education Mary Poplin through the Christian Scholars Series at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church. During our exploration of the relationship of conversation and mentoring, we went back and forth on how one understands, practices, and receives mentoring. The interwoven dynamic of overlapping relationships and conversations in the local Christian community of scholars (including a number of Emerging Scholars) was rich and encouraging — bringing to mind the importance of Spiritual Friendship. In the end, he preferred the lens/term (and the art/practice) of conversation to that of mentoring. He likewise longs for the reclaiming of conversation, no doubt the establishing of transformative conversation and what I might term “mentoring relationships.”

As the fall term begins, I encourage you to dig into and reclaim contexts for significant, transformative conversations (even Dialogical Campus Ministry) which do not lose the value of relationships with an engagement of head, heart, and hands. On the blog we have a number of pieces with the mentoring tag, but I particularly commend to you Hannah Eagleson’s series on The Art of Mentoring and the Resource for Grad Mentoring Undergrads shared by Johns Hopkins graduate student.

Although we are rebuilding the Emerging Scholars Network’s “mentoring” model — hoping for our conversation, research, and resource mobilization to enable us for a strong relaunch in 2014 — our website has several mentoring articles in the resource section, including a Christian Theology of Mentoring (Tom Trevethan and Nan Thomas, 9/24/2005), AND links to Christian Professional and Academic Societies. Note: If you are a women in the academy and the professions, don’t miss The Well’s Dear Mentor column. Furthermore, if you are a woman in science, Christian Women in Science is a newly launched network worth your prayerful consideration.

Whew! What an important, complex topic to explore. And we’re only scratching the surface. If you have updates or additional material to add to Christian Professional and Academic Societies and/or thoughts/stories of reclaiming transformative conversations and mentoring relationships, please share below or drop me a line :) 


  1. Sherry Turkle is Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT and the founder (2001) and current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Professor Turkle received a joint doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University and is a licensed clinical psychologist. — From http://www.mit.edu/~sturkle/.  ↩
  2. O’Hara, David. “Can I Ask Questions In Church?” Slowly Percolating Forms. 8 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2013. ↩
  3. Kaleem, Jaweed “Keeping Alive The Big Questions.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 07 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2013. ↩
  4. Felten, Peter, H-Dirksen L. Bauman, Aaron Kheriaty, and Edward W. Taylor.Transformative Conversations: A Guide to Mentoring Communities among Colleagues in Higher Education. N.p.: Jossey-Bass, 2013. Note: The four authors are connected with the Fetzer Institute (Kalamazoo, MI). ↩

Update: 9/12/2013, 1:17 PM

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Tom Grosh IV

Enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa, four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he hosts the Christian Scholar Series), on campus as part of InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry (serving fellowships such as the Christian Medical Society/CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine), online as the Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network, in the culture at large, and in God’s creation.

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One Comment

  • rogerl@rlginternational.com'
    Roger Laing commented on September 17, 2013 Reply

    Robins William’s rightfull noted: I used to think the worst thing in life was to be alone.I have come to realise that I was wrong. The worst thing in life is to be with someone who makes you feel alone.

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