Monday, October 01, 2007

(Don't) rage against the machine: two articles demystify online dispute resolution

Demystifying ODRFor some mediators, whose work depends upon face-to-face conversations, the world of online dispute resolution (ODR) can seem coldly impersonal.

I have heard some argue that our work in fact requires the heat that flesh and blood alone can generate -- the warmth of compassion, anger's fire. And that we inhabit the real world, grapple with real-world disputes which demand solutions that only the real world can hold. Others, not mediators only, have argued that technology has depleted our social capital, fraying the connections between us.

If you're not sure how ODR fits into your understanding of mediation or the resolution of disputes, then consider these two articles which make the case in different ways for ODR--not as a panacea, but as a legitimate and powerful avenue for justice or problem solving:

"A new face for small claims", an op-ed piece in the Boston Globe by Ethan Katsh and Jeffrey Aresty, which envisions a world in which time and location constitute no barrier to those who seek access to justice in small claims courts, and

"Settling It On the Web", an article from the ABA Journal, which provides one of the best and most thorough explanations of ODR--with an honest acknowledgment of its limitations--that I have yet read.