The Oxford MuseI came upon The Oxford Muse ( http://www.oxfordmuse.com/ ) a few months ago, just at the time I was starting to read blogs and fast getting hooked. It appealed to me for some of the same reasons. I’d read and loved a wonderful, chaotic book called An Intimate History of Humanity, by the project’s founder, Oxford Professor Theodore Zeldin – a “history of human feelings, habits, emotions and perceptions” which alternates historical essays with illustrative contemporary personal accounts of each emotion discussed (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0749396237/026-2718031-2203616#product-details ) The book appealed to my curiosity (or you could call it voyeurism) about people’s intimate lives and how they talk about them. You could call it voyeurism when reading a book - sometimes even when reading a blog. But the Oxford Muse is all about exchange, initiating conversations, challenging the superficiality of much social contact.
They ask people to write their self-portraits, or create them in discussion with Muse facilitators. Questions are provided (but answering these is optional) to provoke reflection and self-revelation. The results are interesting. Some of these portraits are on the website, and a book is in press.
Other activities include ‘conversation dinners’, where strangers or people who’ve previously known one another only in a restricted context are placed at tables for two and given a ‘menu’ of personal questions to discuss. A recent participant said he learned more about a colleague over this dinner than during 20 years working in the same office.
There’s an e-group with world-wide membership which, at its best, creates a real feeling of connection and of people sparking off each other’s thoughts and emotions.