Eat, Talk, Change: Generations Over Dinner as Cultural Activism.

May 21, 2023

Eat, Talk, Change: Generations Over Dinner as Cultural Activism.

May 29, 2023

In his TED talk about the online curated-discussion experience, Death Over Dinner, Michael Hebb seeks to upgrade how the world manages death by inviting us to engage in “dinner table talk.”

Modern Elder Academy (MEA) Founder Chip Conley riffs on Hebb’s idea as he seeks to combat ageism by inviting the world’s seven generations to engage in an online curated-discussion experience: Generations Over Dinner. These two cultural luminaries (revolutionaries?) are banking on the central idea that to change the world for the better, whether globally or locally, communication matters.

We are all familiar with trying to change the world by protesting and demonstrating: Marching in the streets, chanting slogans, 60’s style sit-ins, protest speeches, and sadly, sometimes rioting. So, by comparison, changing the world by “sitting down to talk during dinner” sounds, well, wimpy. Is “table talk” really an effective form of cultural activism?

Although street marching does have its place, in an MEA research partnership with Old Dominion University’s Graduate Program in Lifespan & Digital Communication, preliminary data found that Generations Over Dinner participants learned something about other generations and themselves. That is, preliminary data offers clear and emerging evidence to support the claim that taking part in Generations Over Dinner is potentially an effective way to combat ageism. Of course, more research is needed to pin down exactly what participants learned and the extent to which ageist habits may have changed for the better. But for now, the news is positive.

Table talk is admittedly a slower and gentler form of activism than taking it to the streets. However, Generations-Over-Dinner, Death-Over-Dinner, and similar forms of curated table-talk activism offer advantages. Engaging in Generations Over Dinner is prosocial, positive, takes some guts (certainly not wimpy!), and unlike street protests, dinner participants can avoid being pepper-sprayed and arrested! And because there is the potential for real change at each meal, dinners can indeed function as a tasty form of activism.

So, before you sit down to break bread with generations of friends and family, remember to log-in to Generations Over Dinner, select one of the many curated Generations Over Dinner scripts, and do your part to send ageism to the dustbin of history by engaging in some spirited, table-talk activism! Perhaps paired with other kinds of spirits! Generations Over Dinner: Changing the world, one tasty message at a time.

Dr. Thomas (Tom) Socha is a 2023 MEA Alumnus (The Inter-Gems cohort), a Professor of Communication at Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Virginia), and a nationally award-winning scholar and researcher of positive communication, family communication, lifespan communication, children’s communication, and more. He recently co-founded the Positive Communication Network.

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