Some UnivCafe Headnotes

What follows is a set of notes I wrote down on my smarphone while coming back from a University of the Streets Café conversation. That convo was titled “Made to market: How do we contribute to an ad-saturated world?”. Guests were Kim Bélair and Felix Bander. The conversation was moderated/facilitated by Sara Potau. The event was clearly oriented toward overconsumption.

We arrived at Burritoville about an hour before the condo started and got a chance to chat with interesting people, including a UnivCafe regular who teaches about environmental policy.

I made my usual three comments: a fairly long one during the first phase of the convo, to wrap together several emerging issues (talking about reductionism, marketing as potentially blinding an angle, and conversations as two-way instead of “selling body parts”); a shorter one (in French) around the middle of the event to shift gears a little (detachment, media literacy, and critical thinking as tools against ads, marketing as message transmission outside of critical thinking); and a very short one at the end as a take-home point (we all have a responsibility to train ourselves and others to think critically because we can all develop these skills).

Without further ado, my headnotes (written down from memory, after the fact):

Dichotomies: UnivCafe as in-group vs. Habs fans or advertisers as out-group with Felix as self-created scapegoat.
Turn-taking: making sure that it doesn’t become dialogue with Felix, that it doesn’t get out of hand, that people who had their hand up were seen (though “Curves” guy in the corner had to try several times but was apparently ok with it), and dealing with a partes, peanut gallery, heckling…
Those who stick to topic (ad-saturation), bring it somewhere else, or react to other point with theme as an excuse. (all useful.)
Tacit approval, quiet disapproval, and body language.
Two-speakers dynamic (with Kim being either preserved from opprobrium by short talking time or prevented to speak by more vocal participants)
Good cop, bad cop between Kim and Felix?
How diverse the crowd really is, assumed consensus, shared experience (mention of McGill, e.g.): who does UnivCafe attract
Do people always clap? What are contexts for clapping and other back-channel activities?
One guy taking notes and not speaking up.
Groups of people coming together (including Salinda Hess’s students).
Who knows whom?
Use of first-names vs. “Green Girl”
Importance of pre- and post-convo smalltalk and networking.
Phases in the convo: number of active participants in a row, covering initial topics, clarifying some issues, getting closer to debate mode, toward wrap-up, last lineup of active participants…
Sense of closure?

Pseudo-quant: how many active participants from which part of the room?

On themes and topics;
Human nature?
Manipulation?
Ends justify the means?
Free will?
Cuba?
Critiques of capitalism, modernity, and industrial society (but not really Globalization)
Can we avoid advertising individually? Collectively? As a species?

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