Sometimes small tweaks can have big impacts, and can sidestep showdowns with the powerful and their (often) big brittle egos…
At the Adelaide Festival of Ideas (of which more later) today, I saw a brilliant little facilitation trick/hack/patch/whatevs (1).
It’s so simple, so elegant and – today at least – so effective that I’m a bit embarrassed for myself that I never thought of it…. (2)
It’s this: If you’ve got a Q and A that requires microphones (because it’s a big ol’ auditorium, or the event is being recorded), then once your microphone monkeys (usually kitted out in brightly coloured and logoed- t-shirts) hand over the damn thing, and tend not to shut up for quite some time. It’s like the microphone has the properties of those Tolkien rings.
So, what is to be done is, as the meerkats say, simples – you instruct your monkeys to keep hold of the microphone and tell everyone that you’re doing that. The questioner then has to do their talking without their hands wrapped around an instrument of power…
If I were a wanky poseur who’d half-digested some STS, I’d call this a “counter-affordance”- a social practice that deliberately undercuts the dominant emotional responses to a technology.
Of course, if the speaker is halfway down a row that’s narrow, then maybe you have to tweak it so that the person NEXT to the questioner has to hold it, and lacks the moral authority/social pressure that this is predicated on. Still, just because a patch might not work in every circumstance, doesn’t mean it’s not a damn useful tool.
(1) I didn’t catch the name of the facilitator, and the website does not help further. An older woman, completely on top of her game.
(2) In my own defence, I almost never facilitate those sorts of meetings.