Perspective and the echo chamber

September 28th, 2012

There was a moment last week at the Applied Improvisation Network Conference where I felt particularly despondent.

We’d been listening to people talk about what they are doing in taking improvisation skills and practices out of the theatre and into the world. We’d heard of using improv to treat post-traumatic stress in war veterans, in training firefighters, for teaching language skills in Thailand. And more. Amazing work by amazing people.

I felt I had nothing to offer. It’s all being done, and done much better than I could ever hope to do it. Instead of being inspired, I found myself feeling dejected.

Later in the day I was sitting in the sun talking to my friend Eric Nepom, an amazingly talented scientist, educator and improviser, and passionate about finding ways to bring improv and science together. This is a passion we share so we were doing some evil planning on how we might make that happen.

It was then that perspective kicked in. I’d been sitting with about 200 people passionate about the value of improv in all walks of life. There’s a lot more people out there in the world who know nothing (yet) about the potential of improv. And there’s so much that needs to be done in the world, that there’s space enough for all of us. The shift in my perspective came from a shift in my circumstances, going from being part of a roomful of people receiving information, to a picnic table outdoors and a rich one-on-one conversation.

I realised I’d fallen into the old trap of being in an echo chamber – hearing only the voices saying the same thing – and taking a scarcity view of the world. The scarcity view is fed by competitiveness and a belief that there’s only so much to go round, so you’d better get in quick or be the best at something to get some of the action. The abundance view – that there’s more need than is being met and space for everyone to bring their unique talents, skills and perspectives to change the world – is far more hopeful and nourishing.


2 Comments so far

  1. Adrian Segar on October 1, 2012 3:15 pm

    Viv – I love your observations. I felt the same way at times at the AIN conference—and isn’t this the depressing downside when someone articulate and knowledgable stands in front of us with something carefully prepared to say? But when I was _participating_ in the sessions those feelings vanished, to be replaced with the joy of learning and playing together. Those times (and there were many of them at AIN 2012) made me eager to share the possibilities of the work we do.

  2. Viv McWaters on October 2, 2012 10:45 am

    Thanks Adrian. I think you have clearly identified the difference between the ‘sage on the stage’ and participatory workshops from the perspective of the participant. This is one of the reasons I go to conferences as a participant – to remind myself what it’s like. Learning and playing together is indeed a joy, and it was great to meet you at last.

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