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There Goes That Internet Thingy Again!

by John Helie
March 2007 John Helie
Many years ago as I introduced the ADR community to the Internet, I made many bold claims. Some claims were vague and broad, others more specific. In the sense that the Internet changed communication in general, I was pretty right on about how it would affect ADR. The one claim I was hesitant to make was that it would come to define us.

My crystal ball did not show me Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia of the Internet. Since I am very accustomed to skepticism about my prognostications about the Internet, it is fine to feel skeptical. How could a collaboration of Internet geeks ever come to define mediation? And would they ever get it right? And who would ever take it seriously? Very good questions!

I also did not predict the prominence of Google , but I did note that search engines would become very important as the glut of information became overwhelming. Now, when I want to know anything, I go to Google and at least part of my answer is on the first screen. Sure I retain my reasoned skepticism, but it is a good starting point.

Indulge me for a moment. You have a term paper to write and you selected mediation as your topic. You go to Google and search on “Mediation.” The first entry after the sponsored (paid) section is:

Mediation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The mediator must conduct the mediation in an impartial manner. ... Using peers as mediators is a process known as “peer mediation.”

What more could you ask for? Your paper is almost written. Sure it is a rather benign audience, but it is not just lazy students taking this approach. Anyone searching on the word "mediation" will be given an opportunity to read a definition of mediation. Most of our ADR websites do a vague dance around any attempt to define mediation.

With half a scroll down, you see that there are many related issues, actually worthy of reading over. (See Below) I’ll bet you will have to look at several aspects of the definition.

Wikipedia is another of those rapidly growing Internet phenomena. It is growing large enough that it should soon be bought out by Google, or Ebay, or even Microsoft.

We can stand back and say they have it wrong, or we can jump in and help the definition evolve. But, like it or not, it is becoming a working definition of mediation. You can do something to help get it right. Wikipedia is a collaborative writing project; you can go out there right now and change a word, a phrase or a section. It is very easy and works with very simple guidelines as described here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About

I have enclosed below the beginnings of the definition and a list of related topics. This is not a trivial endeavor.

If you don’t define it someone else will.

Mediation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), aims to assist two (or more) disputants in reaching an agreement. The disputes may involve states, organisations, communities, individuals or other representatives with a vested interest in the outcome.

Mediators use appropriate techniques and/or skills to open and/or improve dialogue between disputants, aiming to help the parties reach an agreement (with concrete effects) on the disputed matter. Normally, all parties must view the mediator as impartial.

Mediation can apply in a variety of disputes. These include commercial, legal, diplomatic, workplace, community and divorce or other family matters.

Contents

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Biography


As one of the founding directors of the Mediation Information and Resource Center, John Helie continues his commitment to dispute resolution and the Internet. John founded ConflictNet in 1989, as a communication, forum and information sharing network for the Conflict Resolution Practitioners community. A trained mediator and facilitator, John has pioneered work being done with online conflict and communication. His interest in conflict resolution and the Internet led to his involvement with RuleNet, an Internet/Web based Regulatory Negotiation Process sponsored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He designed software tools for building and evaluating consensus within the RuleNet project and was the first facilitator to use this technology.

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Website: www.mediate.com/jrhelie

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