WeberWorldCafés are always somehow experimental. First of all, you never know how the “table hosts” (experts who moderate the discussions) will act, whether they will tend to hold a monologue or really encourage the participants to exchange views and experiences as they are supposed to. Especially for scholars, who are used to classical formats like panels and speeches, it seems to be quite a challenge to have a chat with non-experts about their subjects. But most of the researchers are intrigued by the idea of doing just that – for once communicating outside the box. That is why they travel around the world, fly from Japan, India, the US or South Africa to Germany in order to discuss their research in simple terms for a couple of hours with an audience for whom their topics are fascinating and novel.
Secondly, you never know beforehand how the participants will engage. My impression is that many of the students who come to our events are used to ex-cathedra teaching. They listen and take notes – but they are afraid to participate in the discussion, because they think they do not know enough about the subjects. But this is exactly the point of the event: Experts exchanging thoughts with non-experts, on equal terms. It is fine to be a non-specialist. Sometimes you can challenge an expert more with a naive question than with a specific inquiry. After the organization of five WeberWorldCafés, I must say: while most of the PhD students and other participants partake and ask questions, undergraduate students often hesitate. Although I graduated from university eight years ago, I can still remember how debate culture was not genuinely promoted there – hence the surprisingly poor involvement of students. For us, the organizers, it was difficult to understand why students so far had been so reluctant to embrace all opportunities to freely discuss their interests and ideas with experts from all over the world over a casual cup of coffee. Or are we mistaken? Should we have instructed the table hosts to address their silent listeners with direct questions? Anyways, we wanted to try something new this time, targeting a new audience. Weiterlesen