måndag 14 november 2016

Literary Salon 2.0

I helped organize our first "Literary Salon 2.0" one week ago. It is not an activity at my job but rather something we do in our free/leisure time and that we plan to do once per month. There are four (or probably rather six) organizers and we hope to have around 15 participants/discussants at each such meetings. It's enough for each organizer to invite only one or two persons for the event to be full so don't be sorry if you haven't been invited (I'm sorry about it anyway). What you should do instead is organize your own literary salon. I'll tell you how we did it:

I stated my interest in organizing a Literary Salon (2.0) on Facebook half a year ago. A few people expressed interest in helping out. We met over lunch and discussed what what we wanted to accomplish and how to go about to organize it. We wanted to have monthly meetings and planned for them to start in September. That didn't happen, we had our first meeting in November and will have one more meeting this year and one meeting per month during the spring.

Since I work at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, I meet a lot of researchers in my day job and the idea was to make sure this was not a gathering of only researchers, despite the fact that the majority of the organizers are (happen to be?) researchers.

We now have a deal with a cafe that closes at 18.00. We get to hang there between 18.30 and 21.00 without paying for using their facilities, but, we have also promised that we will bring 15 guests who will eat dinner and have a coffee to "make up for" the effort and the costs of keeping the cafe open for us.

We will have a topic that we will discuss at each meeting, but the topic for the first meeting was to discuss what we wanted to "charge" the concept of a Literary Salon 2.0 with. What are our expectations of a Literary Salon 2.0 and what do we want to get out of such a gathering? What kind of topics will we discuss and who will go about choosing them?

The idea is to choose a topic for each meeting and to prescribe a "text" (could be a podcast or a documentary movie) that we should all read in preparation for the meeting. I chose the text for the first meeting, an excerpt from sociologist Ray Oldenburg's book "The great good place: Café, coffee shops, community centers, beauty parlors, general stores, bars, hangouts, and how they get you through the day" (1989/1997). We read the preface to the second edition and chapter 2, "The character of third places". The term "third place" is Oldenburg's term for a place that is not home (1st place) and not work (2nd place) but a "a home away from home". It's basically a hangout where the regulars meet. I get phantom pains when I read about it due to the fact that I would like to but don't have access to such a place. But nor do the majority of people nowadays. Worse, I don't really know if I would frequent such a place even should there be one just around the corner - I feel like I'm too busy to pass by a joint (or such) every day to check in on the ongoings of "the gang" - but who knows? The closest I've been to being part of the phenomena Oldenburg describes was when I was part of the "in" group at the Student Nation I belonged to at Uppsala University for a couple of years during my undergraduate studies.

When I looked up Oldenburg's book on Amazon just for the purpose of linking to it (above), I noticed that Oldenburg edited a book in 2002 called "Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories About the "Great Good Places" at the Heart of Our Communities". I did not know about that book until literally just a minute ago.

A literary salon is however different from the hangouts Oldenburg writes about, but I still thought his extensive list of functions and characteristics of third places was interesting and a Literary Salon could potentially - at least partly - fulfill some of those same functions.

The meeting (Literary Salon 2.0) went fine and I do believe that everyone who attended would like to come back to the second Salon in December. We now have a Facebook group but the requirement for joining is to first have attended a F2F meeting at Literary Salon 2.0.

For the second meeting, my suggestion (which is being discussed right now) is that we should discuss the topic "Trump: What now?". I think there is a need to discuss how we should handle the upcoming Trump presidency intellectually as well as psychologically.

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