Conversation-starter idea thread

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Post by Enail on Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:16 am

Since there were some great suggestions for conversation topics in the New skills for social gatherings thread, and since it's something that's often useful, I thought we might do a thread for interesting topics and questions to spark conversation in various situations, based on recent events or eternal topics.

I hope none of the original posters mind I've pulled some of the topics from that thread to get things started:

-(at family-heavy gatherings) "what's a typical [family]" thing to do?" (from InkAndComb)
-the flipped classroom"/"did you read that article about the Khan academy?" Opinions about education, what children should learn, what they hated about school...(from Kleenestar)
-Gamergate (")
-advice-asking, such as what advice they'd give a new parent based on how their parents raised them (")
-at gatherings, ask for assistance in something related to the environment "show me the nibbles/your aunt/those kids of yours" (from Readertorider)
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Post by kath on Wed Mar 11, 2015 3:15 am

You mentioned pop-science topics, and I tend to have a lot of success with having interesting and hopefully not to controversial conversations with people I've just met drawing on Random Pop Science Topics I'm Not Super Informed About. New technology and biofeedback stuff and things like 3D printed ears tend to not end up being super fraught so far.

Talking about pop-y non fiction books also seems like a pretty easy way to get into a conversation - Jared Diamond stuff works really well (I've read Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse), and they've been out for a while so it's not like people would have to be following popular nonfiction to have read or heard about it or know some of the general content. Malcolm Gladwell books and some of the ideas in them also work well for this, especially if you aren't super invested in any of them.
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Post by reboot on Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:10 am

For me it depends on how active a role I want in the conversation. For family gatherings, I want to say as little about my life as possible (because I am the family weirdo who went to college but makes so little money), so I tend to ask a lot of questions about what is going on at their job/in their community, in their state. My family is in UT, NV and AZ and those that work at all work in mining so I do, alittle research on what mines are opening/closing, new infrastructure around the mines, how is the crew they work with, about their jobs, etc.. For anyone who is not working, what is up in the parish/ward can fill hours.

For a situation where I want to be a more active participant, I also do some ground research. I ask whoever invited who is coming and how they know them (if I do not already know) and then come up with a handful of engaging but not likely to get too controversial topics.

For example, if I am visiting my friend who works on Wall Street and it is a party mostly with her colleagues, I will ask them questions like "Do you think Bloomberg terminals will get usurped by new technology?" or what they think might happen if Venezuela defaults or Greece leaves the EU. Since I happen to generally follow current events economics, and international news, I do not have to do too much research.

For a group where I have no prior knowledge and determine I have no common interests, I tend to ask about people first to learn more about them and then pick topics based on their responses. So if, say, someone is a musician, I will ask about what they play, what music they like and then state what music I like, then spin it into concerts/shows we have seen, stories of first concert/first music we bought as kids, guilty pleasure music, etc.. You can follow the same pattern with almost any topic. Or bail if you realize this is someone you do not want to know better.
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Post by BasedBuzzed on Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:56 am

>Gamergate
In my opinion, that topic contains a truckload of interesting questions utterly overshadowed by harassing edgelords and clickbaiters who never verify their info.

Underlying questions that are not discussed often enough:
-how would you use videogames as an art form(gameplay versus narrative)?
-what influence does the media have on our behaviour?
-how does the nature of social media alter the conversations we're having?
-are callouts and public shaming appropriate or have they gotten out of hand?
-how do you combat implicit bias without compromising your own perception of the world to an unhealthy degree?
-what is a good way to encourage diversity in art forms without falling into the trap of checkboxing?

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Post by reboot on Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:36 am

Oh, I also keep a spreadsheet of people I run into infrequently with their name, how I know them, tribal/clan/religious/ethnic affiliation (if relevant), where they are from, who we know in common, what I know about them, topics to engage/avoid, etc..

I started doing it for work contacts after making an ass of myself more than once and expanded it to social contacts since it helped.
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