Conversation as a mode of inquiry predates most or all of other methods. Greek philosophers engaged in exploratory conversations about philosophical issues walking around their cities and gardens with their disciples. Socrates, for instance, is credited with inventing the special Socratic method of inquiry known as Socratic Dialogue. This kind of dialogue “can happen at any time between [two people] when they seek to answer a question [about something] answerable by their own effort of reflection and thinking [starting] from the concrete [asking] all sorts of questions [until] the details of the example are fleshed out [as] a kind of platform for reaching more general judgments” (Wikipedia, 2006). This form of inquiry, therefore, presupposes active involvement of two interlocutors who devote a great deal of time and attention to clarifying the minute details of their conversation, using all the power of their brains to do this.
In today’s society, the incredible speed of life has generated technical means that can connect people quickly and efficiently including cell phones, Internet, video conferencing. However, when speed and efficiency become the focus, thoroughness and depth often go away. Whereas the Socratic dialogue often presupposes the active engagement of the two sides that take turns exploring the issue, modern communication, such as in the form of e-mails, often makes responses of the other party redundant and becomes increasingly one-sided.
To regenerate conversation as a mode of inquiry, people need to devote more time and effort to the investigation of critical issues. They should also provide for equal input of both or perhaps more parties to the dialogue. There is also an opportunity to do that using modern media. Thus, online communities and discussions allow conversation, although in a changed form. In general, the revival of conversation as a mode of inquiry depends on the will of people and their desire to subordinate technology to their needs to generate the right type of conversation.
Wikipedia. (2006). Socratic Dialogue. Retrieved May 19, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_method