Truth in Society

October 27, 1994

Prompt #31

Up a level

Now that everyone's had a chance to read all the discussion papers, each focus group will spend the rest of the morning dividing itself into three temporary working groups of four or five.

There are many ways to accomplish this, and no doubt your focus group will choose its own way. Here are some things we think are important as you work your way through the process of dividing into smaller working groups. Consider first the documents you all have written, and second the authors of those documents. In other words, although it matters that you end up in a working group with people with whom you can work well, it's going to be important to have documents to work with that relate to each other. So begin by considering the documents. Ask yourself, for example, what are the affinities, similarities, relationships, parallels between the discussion papers? Do they deal with the same book? With similar books? With similar ideas or problems, or contrasting ones? Are they about parallel themes? Can you imagine the two documents speaking to each other? Arguing? Casting aspersions? Initiating litigation?

The first step in the process of dividing, then, is to figure out which papers might go together. Then take a ten minute break. When you get back, be ready to negotiate who will work with whom in the smaller working groups. A group has four or five people in it. (All other things being equal, choose to work with someone you haven't worked with before.)

Each new subgroup will be in possession of the 12 - 15 discussion papers that members have brought with them. Together, examine this array, with the idea of selecting out four or five pairs of texts (one, that is, for each member of the group).

Form a pair by putting together two texts that seem most inclined to "talk to each other." Their "conversation" might be argumentative or conciliatory. The two might adopt different perspectives to address the same topic. Or they might treat different topics in complementary ways. The point is to put together texts in combinations that will best help us understand how the events reported and the ideas expressed derive from different perspectives.

(There are, in each group, two copies of the DISCUSS2 papers, and one of the DISCUSS1 papers: a pair might involve any two of those twelve or fifteen documents. That is, a DISCUSS2 text might serve in two different pairs, because there are two copies.)

Each subgroup member should leave at 11:30 with one of the pairs. Between now and 4:00, she should write a reflection focusing on the similarities and differences in perspective on the events or ideas.

How long? A page or two should do it, put push yourself to think hard about it; the more thoughtful and extended the reflection, the more the rest of us will have to think about. About what? On the similarities and differences in perspective on the events or ideas. On the conversation you might imagine these two discussion papers carrying on.

Bring your reflection back to EC 120 at 4:00.

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