Exploring the Potential of Comic Improvisation as a Means of Understanding Generative Dialogue

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ed.D.
Date created
This study explored comic improvisation as a lens for improving competencies in generative dialogue. Comic improvisation involves spontaneous unscripted scenes created in a cooperative process in which an actor works with suggestions from an audience. Generative dialogue is a term coined by Otto Scharmer that refers to the suspending our preconceptions to allow new thoughts and ideas to be co-generated during a dialogue. This study explores the experiences of seven participants in regard to the development of their understanding and learning about dialogue after completing a series of five comic improvisation workshops. I specifically explore their experiences in terms of being in the holy insecurity, being responsive, practicing suspension, and coming to new ideas or understandings.The research entailed a qualitative case study. Participants initially participated in paired dialogues followed by a semi structured interview. After participating in five comic improvisation workshops, they completed another semi-structured interview and a focus group to describe their experiences. The data also included the videotaped comic improvisation classes, transcribed audiotapes of the dialogues and anecdotal field notes. The data revealed that participants found connections between the competencies used in comic improvisation and those used in dialogue. They also believed they increased their awareness and ability to be in the holy insecurity, to be responsive, to practice suspension and to create something new in the comic improvisation sessions. The participants reported that increased awareness of these competencies helped them with dialogue; however, they noted difficulties in applying these competencies to their dialogues. Other thematic categories that emerged from the data included comic improvisation as energized play, the constraints of time, structural differences, embodied knowing and the necessity of disagreement in generative dialogue. The findings suggest participants perceived that they were better able to think about and explore their ability to dialogue generatively through participation in the comic improvisation workshops. Current uses of comic improvisation as a training tool in areas such as business and psychotherapy are discussed as well as possible curriculum development considerations. The study shows a promising pathway for further exploration and research of comic improvisation as a training strategy for generative dialogue.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: McKinnon, Allan
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