Arts and Sciences Lecture Series - Dr. David Landes
New theories of social interaction and innovative teaching methodology
The Arts and Sciences Lecture Series continued with Dr. David Landes, Assistant Professor of Oral Rhetoric, who presented a paper titled “Rebooting the Idea of Public Speaking for the 21st Century: An Anti-Technological Approach.”
Attendees learnt about new theories of social interaction and innovative teaching methodology. In his talk, Dr. Landes discussed his research on a radical reconception of how best to teach speaking skills in an age marked by rapid mediation, social alienation, and generational stigma.
The presentation considers questions such as: what does “speaking well” mean in our time?  What speaking assumptions need revising?  What speaking ideals need adoption? 
As an answer, Dr. Landes suggests a daring method that casts each student into the dual role of 1) free participant in a conversational anarchy and 2) reflexive ethnographic researcher of class dynamics. Classtime is spent with each student talking sequentially to the whole group, which weaves one in-class conversation as the main course text to be analyzed after each session. This instructor-led process merges practice and theory into rapidly continuous refinement, as each student pursues inquiries of their choosing and experiments with how to act upon it in class.
The approach is theoretically grounded in principles of “laboratory learning” that apply an eclectic mix of Rogerian psychology, Gerard Egan’s group interaction research, and contemporary rhetorical theories of dialog and identity
Dr. Landes collected data through teaching this approach numerous times at the University of Pittsburgh (USA), where it received superlative acclaim, transgressive student insights, and a cult following that continued autonomously outside the university. A signature feature is the total prohibition of all technology—including paper and pencil—to create an oasis of focused dialog that develops memory, individual idiosyncrasy, a close attention to the present, and an intensely immediate social encounter not found elsewhere in contemporary spaces.