Ruth Barker

On Glasgow Conversation

2011

The Glasgow Conversations series has been a rare opportunity for cross-disciplinary
meeting. We haven’ t always agreed with one another – perhaps we haven’ t even often
agreed – but the space between our perspectives has been made visible to us. And in
that unclaimed territory between what I think and what you think, we have had room to
engage in genuine speculation.

This is a strength of ‘ conversation’ as a methodology. By mostly listening, and by
speaking sometimes, we can extend the boundaries of our single point perspective to
take in the viewpoints of others. Conversation allows for this third space, often non-
vocalised, which belongs neither to one participant nor another, but which is the territory
of the conversation itself. As the talk moves, our personal moorings may be lost as the
landscape shifts to unfamiliar topologies. But still we can navigate, through the shared
experience of talking and, more often, listening.

This isn’ t just some idle pleasure in which we engage, navigating and verbally
travelling new territories out of curiosity. What we are doing by talking about our city
is essentially human (because it is essentially social), and essentially important. Cities
are so complex and ever-changing that no single perspective could possibly hope to
encompass all (or even most) of their facets. Cities are the geographical points at which
vast numbers of individual people choose to live in close proximity. This proximity
and the interdependence of individuals that it necessitates is associated with a particular
set of problems, which can cause tragedy, pain, heartbreak, and inhumanity. I have a
responsibility – as does, I believe, everyone – to try to understand the specifics of this
context in which we live. And by understanding it a little more, I have a responsibility to
try and make it a little better.

Conversation, I believe, can begin to engender a greater understanding. As we move
away from our own voice in order to listen to the voices of others, we can learn.