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The Al Jazeera Cafe: not quite a conversation

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 29 November 2012



The Al Jazeera Cafe: not quite a conversation
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 149
Posted DateThursday 29 November 2012 13:11 GMT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
Linkshttp://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/thecafe ... 
http://www.youtube.com/show/thecafe ... 
http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/thecafe/2012/07/20127139 ... 
http://aje.me/NsGIfc ... 
CategoriesConversation; Knowledge Cafe

The Al Jazeera Cafe is about bringing people together around a table, from all backgrounds, all walks of life, in different corners of the world.

Crucially, the show is always set, as the name suggests, in a cafe - whether in Amman, Jordan, Bradford England, or Mexico City, Mexico. There are no television studios, no invited audiences. Just a relaxed yet robust discussion on the key issues of the day in an intimate, everyday setting.

I travel across the globe, to talk with people on the ground about economic inequality, democratic reform, sectarian conflict and national identity.

The show is a democratic forum for ideas; the perfect platform for discussing global themes. And my guests range from ministers to bloggers, Islamists to secularists, Democrats to Republicans.

You will see passionate people arguing over controversial issues.

Whether it is the war on terror or the war on drugs, the death of multiculturalism or the rise of Islamophobia, The Cafe cuts through the spin and gets right to the heart of the subject.

This is a great idea but to my mind it is flawed. Watch this so called "conversation" The Cafe - One state or any of the conversations. They are not conversations in a true sense. Notice how Mehdi Hasan is really in charge. He is driving and controlling the conversation. Often it is not even a conversation. He asks questions of an individual participant and they reply. It is a series of monologues.

Such a shame, its so close to being a unique piece of journalism but there is that need to control the conversation all the time. Maybe I am expecting too much, maybe the control is necessary to keep the focus and extract the intellectual entertainment value out of the conversation. I just wish, that at least once they would relax the controls and let it become a real conversation. One of equals.

Some of the Cafes' are a little better - this one on Kenyas unwinnable war for example.

while this one is still tightly controlled.

There are more Cafe vidoes here if you are interested. Regardless of style, there are some interesting topics.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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