Southern Dialogues is an independent documentary series about civic life and changing times in the American South in the words of the people living it. It's an experiment in using web media as an opportunity to listen, to elevate civic dialogue and reverse the typical relationship between media and political polarization in our lives.
The episodes explore major cultural and economic developments through ordinary conversation and ordinary people’s experiences.
Each piece begins with one or two starting questions given to each participant, and interview material is arranged thematically to produce the documentary episodes. For more on the process click here.
Listening by itself points to a different way of civic media. Polarization pushes us to stop seeing each other's views or values as legitimate, which cuts away at the principle of the co-equality of citizens that is critical to democracy or self-government.
By listening we can re-learn and rebuild trust to better lead ourselves in our own circles, our own communities, and go toward a shared future.
Political polarization means we're more likely to find ourselves at the extremes. It means more often our interactions with each other just drive us further apart. It means we define ourselves more and more by opposition, to the point that it's almost like we're speaking different languages.
Listening means taking a moment and connecting with another person's experience. When we listen to each other, we grow together. That's the solution to growing apart that Southern Dialogues is based on.
is a content producer and artist from Tennessee. In the fall of 2013 while living in New York City and watching that time's government shutdown, I thought of the real implications of political polarization in American life today among all the major changes shaping the future, from global economy to new technology. With a mission, donated equipment, two months' rent, crowdfunded gas money and hard drives, and no video training, I spent 2014 traveling across the South learning documentary, discovering my own country, and asking people all along the way what political polarization means as they see it.