Personal Communication and Mass Society --What's New?

by John S. James

Technology can change the world, in part because it's new. Computers, airplanes, antibiotics, and nuclear bombs empower people to do things they could not do before -- for good or ill.

But personal communication is almost as old as the sun. Everything we do in personal relationships has doubtless been done billions of times before in human history. So it may seem that nothing's new -- and therefore no personal-communication development could make any real difference in world affairs.

But there is something new. Today we live in a worldwide mass society far larger than any human community in history. A large society opens possibilities that would not have worked as well before. And a social movement around personal communication can take advantage of them.

A large society increases the potential of a "market" type dynamic (not necessarily financial), allowing many people who may not know each other to work together and contribute their talents to a common project. Size matters, because a mass society has access to the talents of millions of people. The best work from anywhere in the world can be widely replicated and used.

Communication Practices is about developing ways to teach and learn communication and relationship skills, through educational "practices" used within everyday life. These practices work with ordinary human interactions -- so they do not require money or other material resources, nor formal education, nor permission, nor special settings, nor privileges. This means that rich and poor are equal here -- and that we can focus immediately on the heart of what we want to do, without waiting for resources to become available. And there's no need to fight over resources, avoiding that major distraction.

These practices are low stress because they are fully integrated with everyday life. They do not require scheduled time, because you do them through whatever you are doing anyway. So you can practice as much as you want, building skills quickly.

This work -- both developing better training practices, and using them to improve our lives and our world -- is truly open to everyone. The best communication or relationship training practices could come from any place on Earth, from any culture or society. We are proposing a social movement to link people interested in this activity, so that experiences and results can be shared.

Communication Practices uses assisted-performance education, recognized by many experts as a highly effective way to learn. It brings this learning into everyday life, which is always available and doesn't cost money -- not just into the classroom. And it brings to the table a key ingredient -- a way to modularize this work so that it becomes open and flexible, not tied to any particular practices or methods. Each practice stands or falls independently; it can be added, changed, or deleted at will. People anywhere can use their particular talents and experiences to improve existing communication training practices, design new ones, apply practices to their own circumstances, or promote ones they believe in. They can work independently yet within a community. They can receive guidance from others, yet can proceed on their own, without having to stop and wait until others are ready.

To look at it another way, think of the many serious hobbyists out there -- people who become among the best in the world at some obscure and often seemingly useless activity. Suppose one could also choose a new activity: creating or promoting a line of designer life practices / educational tools, which people anywhere could use to help them build a better life for themselves and a better world around them. This activity could offer the same opportunities for self-improvement and recognition that attract people to conventional hobbies, while also offering major practical and community benefits. We believe it could develop a constituency.

Our goal for Communication Practices is to create enough of this process for a proof of principle, a demonstration of useful possibilities.

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