This chapter begins with some basic definitions of culture, then address the relationship between ODR technology and culture, and finally offers observations about what may be the short term future of intercultural exchanges mediated by online dispute resolution tools.
Few, if any, topics in the general field of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) draw more attention than the impact of culture on parties in conflict and the processes they use to resolve conflict. This is easy to understand if one begins with the conviction that all dispute resolution, at whatever level, is essentially an exercise in communication: active parties and third parties engage in interactions within one of a number of process models in order to exchange information and reach understanding.
The reader will recognize that exchanging information and achieving understanding can be difficult when there are few overt differences in culture. Even when we are communicating with someone who looks like us, speaks the same language, shares many social rules, shares a national history, etc., the opportunity for misunderstanding is ever present.
As technology shrinks the world and generates ever more opportunity for communicating with those of very different cultures, it would seem reasonable to assume that the opportunity form is understanding and cultural disconnects are also increasing.
In an essay prepared for the Fourth International Online Dispute Resolution Forum, the author argued that one key element driving intercultural misunderstanding in ODR was linked to the basic model of dispute resolution that was dominant at the time – the “North American Model” of dispute resolution.
In this chapter, the author revisits that argument and add some observations about the evolution of ODR internationally over the past five years.