NSA Convention – Speakers speaking about speaking

A hall of mirrors concept kept me awake last night. I’m attending a Convention where Professional Speakers are speaking about speaking – they give presentations on ways to present.

This reminded me of my days as a rebellious sociology student in the early 1970’s when, with a sense of wicked delight, I discovered there was a branch of sociology (the scientific study of human societies) that studied other sociologists – it was, naturally, called the sociology of sociology, or reflexive sociology. Amazing! I could torment my professors by analyzing them with the same tools they were teaching me. The bible of this movement in 1972 was Sociology as a Skin Trade which I bought on the strength of the title alone and read with delight. Reflexive sociologists claimed that

sociologists are like goldfish swimming in a bowl, confidently analyzing other goldfish, without having ever stopped to recognize the bowl and the water they have in common with the fish they study

I never attended a convention of reflexive sociologists, but the meeting rooms at the NSA Orlando Convention are filled with many fish who swim in the same waters as the presenters on stage before them.

Perhaps there are other meetings where I could experience this sense of infinite reflection? Where there are moments of expertise in a profession being used to assist the development of members of that profession:

Who polices the policemen and spies on the spies? Who stares at the ceiling at 3am considering these questions but a speechwriter at the NSA Orlando Convention?

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