Day: July 17, 2009

the force of belief

[I]f one defines knowledge as that which exists independently of any particular perspective, belief — which is another name for perspective — becomes a bar to its achievement. In this view beliefs are the property of partisan agendas and if one is to resist their appeal, an appeal that amounts to nothing less than coercion, one must distance themselves from them an neutralise their force. It is my contention that this is precisely what one cannot possibly do and still remain a “one”, a being with a capacity for action. In short, you can never get away from your beliefs, which means you can never get away from force, from the pressure exerted by a partial, non-neutral, nonauthoritative, ungrounded point of view. (Stanley Fish, ‘Force’, Doing What Comes Naturally, p 519).

Now Fish is one of my lights. I’ve read, marked, learned and inwardly digested this stuff. And I’m totally with him that there’s no getting away from belief — and thus from persuasion (as opposed to ‘pure’, agenda-free reasoning).

The problem is, if Fish is right, where’s the line between persuasion and manipulation?

This is no idle question. I was asked it at my Moore College admissions interview. And for anyone contemplating preaching or leading a Bible study — heck, even just opening their mouth to counsel or encourage a friend — it can’t be shelved: We have an authoritative (even transformative) message that we’re rightly seeking to persuade people of. Yet this doesn’t licence coercion, manipulation or otherwise overthrowing the will of those we’re addressing.

Any tips or stories from your experience?

presentation offences (5)

1. Having more slides in your slide-deck than you actually speak to.

2. Having more text written on your slides than you actually say.

3. Lack of ‘signposts’.

4. Complete lack of imagery.

5. Failure to visualise your work.

This is different from using pictures. What I mean by visualisation is the diagrammatic representation of your work.


Jessica Hagy on Indexed

If you’re reporting on quantitative results, this is easy. Use graphs and charts and (if you have spatial data too) maps. But even if you are presenting qualitative results — or (God forbid) pure theory — you should still be able to create some kind of visualisation. Use a flow chart, a Venn diagram, a knowledge map or a rich picture. This cute visualistion of different types of visualisations might provide some inspiration.

Everyone knows that there are different types of learners. Your presentation meets the needs of auditory learners (your voice), text/written learners (you will have text on slides) — now work a bit harder on giving visual leaners something to sink their teeth into. It is a visual medium after all.