Publication 5179

Pangaro P. (2017) Questions for conversation theory or conversation theory in one hour. Kybernetes 46(9): 1578–1587. Fulltext at
Purpose: In an ideal situation, the author would like to answer each of the following questions: What is Conversation? What is Theory? What is Conversation Theory, anyhow? How did it arise? Who participated? How is it a theory? Where did it end up? Is it interesting? How might it be useful? Where has it been applied? Why should you care? What does it offer the practice of education? Of design? Of ethics? Where is it headed? (Sorry, steering joke, since Conversation Theory is situated in cybernetics, the art of steering). The purpose of this paper is to answer as many of these questions as practical. Design/methodology/approach The seeds of Conversation Theory lie in Gordon Pask’s instincts and in his “making.” This paper begins by describing some of the machinery he constructed to explore human interaction. Next, a skeletal model of conversation is offered, and connections to Pask’s own diagrams are drawn. Complementary to these models of the structure of conversations are their consequences, which are described in broad terms rather than given in detail. Lastly, Pask’s approach to proposing a scientific theory, and his means of achieving it, are explained. Originality/value Conversation Theory is a thoroughly original body of work, unmatched by its range and specificity. It is little known and yet potentially profound, with a scope that has already influenced educational psychology, second-order cybernetics, knowledge modeling and software design. By describing its origins, models and implications, the author hopes its value can be extended to new generations and to new domains.


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