Cyber-Mediation: Computer-Mediated Communications Medium Massaging the Message
The course of ecommerce is not always smooth. Disputes are inevitable. These disputes will have to be resolved if ecommerce is to develop to its full potential. This Article examines the feasibility of online mediation. It evaluates some modalities, presents cross-cultural mediation as a theoretical construct to describe online mediation, and recommends guidelines for the practice of online mediation. Mediation exists on a continuum from face-to-face to pure online mediation. Most of the legal literature evaluating the potential of online mediation can be best characterized as the battle of the anecdotes. No legal scholars have looked at the rich social science literature on the effects of computer-mediated communications. Part I of this Article analyzes the need for online mediation, the capability of online mediation to meet these needs, some common misconceptions accepted in the legal-mediation community, the technological infrastructure on which online mediation takes place, and identifies some of the associated real world legal issues raised by technology. Part II discusses differences between physical presence face-to-face mediation and online virtual mediation, examines a sample of the many scientific studies of computer-mediated communication, and postulates how these studies should inform views on whether and when online mediation is feasible. Part III describes some existing online mediation programs as models of what might be and describes various software programs to facilitate the mediation process. Since no article on mediation would be complete without a simulation, part IV applies this Article's lessons to a paradigmatic hypothetical.