Using ODR Across Cultures: Best and Worst Practices


In this forum, we would like to discuss how culture manifests itself online as well as what challenges come along with cross-cultural communication online.  We would like to talk about these topics in the context of several different types of disputes addressed online, beginning with transactional disputes on Tuesday.  Feel free to share your anecdotes of what you have found does and does not work in regards to cross-cultural communication online. 


Please click this link to review an article that will supplement th...


General Discussion Questions

  • Should ODR be used for cultural understanding and does it make a difference?
  • Can you speak to the development of a “global, online culture”?


Moderated By:


Crystal Schweitzer is currently a student pursuing a Master's degree in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution through The Werner Institute at Creighton University.  Prior to her studies with Creighton, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Crystal presently works as a Client Service Representative at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey (US) LLP in San Francisco, CA.  In the past, she volunteered her time mentoring exchange students, advising students setting off to study abroad and assisting at a children’s home.  She spent five months studying abroad in Argentina where she gained an appreciation for cultural diversity.  These experiences have led Crystal to Soliya, where she is currently undergoing an advanced training program to become a facilitator to discussions between those in the West and the Muslim World.


Colin Rule is Director of Online Dispute Resolution for eBay and PayPal. He has worked in the dispute resolution field for more than a decade as a mediator, trainer, and consultant. He is currently Co-Chair of the Advisory Board of the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution at UMass-Amherst and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

Colin co-founded Online Resolution, one of the first online dispute resolution (ODR) providers, in 1999 and served as its CEO (2000) and President. In 2002 Colin co-founded the Online Public Disputes Project, which applied ODR to multiparty, public disputes. Previously, Colin was General Manager of, the largest online resource for the dispute resolution field. Colin also worked for several years with the National Institute for Dispute Resolution in Washington, D.C. and the Consensus Building Institute in Cambridge, MA.

Colin has presented and trained throughout Europe and North America for organizations including the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the Department of State, the International Chamber of Commerce, and the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution. He has also lectured and taught at UMass-Amherst, Stanford, MIT, Creighton UniversitySouthern Methodist University, the University of Ottawa, and Brandeis University.

Colin is the author of Online Dispute Resolution for Business, published by Jossey-Bass in September 2002. He has contributed more than 50 articles to prestigious ADR publications such as Consensus, The Fourth R, ACResolution Magazine, and Peace Review. He currently serves as a contributing editor on eBay Radio and PayPal radio, and posts regularly to the Chatter, eBay's blog about the company and the community (in addition to his personal blog at Stanford). He holds a Master's degree from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in conflict resolution and technology, a graduate certificate in dispute resolution from UMass-Boston, a B.A. in Peace Studies from Haverford College, and he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Eritrea from 1995-1997.






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Hi Crystal. Thanks for continually serving up fresh topics for us to consider. Just when it seems Cyberweek is winding down, a new tempting thread pops up! I fear however that I'm going to veer a little to far off your topic by moving it into the realm of fiction. I wanted to call attention to Cory Doctorow's book "For the Win" (available under a CC license here) that includes a focus on cybercafes, sweatshops and in-game gold farmers in mainly asian cultures, but as part of a global MMO gaming network. The in-game gold farming workers (running missions to earn in-game gold that can later be sold for real world cash) begin to organize into a kind of union and they use in-game and online digital means to push back against their oppressors, but the digital world bleeds back over into the F2F world in the cybercafes where these young folks labor and the tactics are different there.

Interestingly, fiction and fact are not that far apart as this May 2011 news story in the Guardian attests - "China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work" (see it here).

I think there are lots of cultural implications in this story, both as we think of largely digitalized jobs that some people do and as we expand our sense of where the workplace is, and how to locate the "home" of the dispute. Hope some of this is making sense. Even if not, I'd recommend reading For the Win...

Here's a Prezi by Anastasia Salter that expands on some of the ideas from the book.

Thanks for sharing the book and multi-media, Bill.  It sounds like a good read that I'll have to put in my line-up.  I remember first hearing about this “gold-farming” phenomenon a couple months back and was astonished that gamers would pay real money for credit in a cyber-setting. 

The Prezi you shared brought the thought of "digital natives" vs. "digital immigrants" to the forefront of my mind. This has always been somewhat of a complication for ODR and technology in general, because those that are less tech savvy are at an inherent disadvantage.  I attached an article to this post that talks on the subject of digital natives and digital immigrants.  It's a good, quick and easy read if you get the chance to check it out. 

Anastasia Salter asserted in the Prezi that the growth of diversity can be attributed to the online community.  A tension seems to exist in the online realm where on the one hand, cultural diversity thrives because people have a platform where they can freely express themselves and connect with other, like-minded individuals. On the other hand, there is a concern that one, global culture is being created which may be viewed as cultural imperialism where the non-dominant cultures are suppressed. Maybe in the end, they just balance each other out..

ODR definitely does hide culture. It is unlikely that a person is able to point out the culture of the person that they are interacting with, without guessing. I think it is a great thing, because sometimes peoples ideas are skewed depending on what the other person looks or acts like. Unless video is involved, there is not any way to know these things. ODR could also display as a negative when hiding culture because you are unable to read body language. Some people may speak differently online when conveying their thoughts and without body language, the other person may retrieve the message in a different manner.

Crystal Schweitzer said:
To kick off the Tuesday discussions, we would like to focus on cross-cultural communication in transactional disputes. Let's get things started with the following two questions:

Is there a cultural element to transactional disputes?

Does ODR hide culture?  If so, to what extent, and how might this be a good or bad thing?
A big thanks to everyone that participated in the forum this week.  It has been great hearing everyone's thoughts and learning more about your different insights and perspectives on cross-cultural communication in ODR.  It has been a great week and I look forward to more discussions down the road!
Yes, thanks to everyone for their excellent contributions.  This is an important topic, core to the continued success of ODR -- and while we didn't figure everything out, this discussion definitely helped to move the ball forward.


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