Recently, unable to get to sleep one night, I found myself playing a game of Googlewhacking. For those of you who haven’t yet heard of this phenomenon, Googlewhacking is a word game you can play, alone or with friends, on any computer with an Internet connection. The object of Googlewhacking is to come up with a two-word query (no quotation marks allowed) that will produce only a single result using the search engine Google. (There is even a web site dedicated to this pastime.)
Besides being an occasional insomniac, I am also a devoted fan of The Lord of the Rings. I therefore tried plugging in names of various characters from the trilogy into my Googlewhack queries, along with (of course) the word “mediation”. (In case you were wondering whether this posting has anything whatsoever to do with mediation, your wondering is about to end.)
To my utter astonishment, one of my queries produced some interesting results, one of which turned out to be a law review article entitled “Gollum, Meet Sméagol: A Schizophrenic Rumination on Mediator Values Beyond Self-Determination and Neutrality”, written by Professor James Coben, Director of the Dispute Resolution Institute at Hamline University School of Law, and published in the Spring 2004 edition of the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution.
Despite its fanciful title, this is a serious article that challenges mediation’s long-cherished notions of self-determination and neutrality–foundational principles of mediation practice. It invites readers to reflect honestly upon the influence and role the mediator possesses in shaping parties’ interactions, and to consider the importance of other values in mediation: justice and community, and the connection and interplay between the two.
“Gollum, Meet Sméagol” is well worth a read for any self-reflective practitioner, whether you’re a Tolkien fan or not. You can find the article by going to the web page for Professor Coben by clicking here and then scrolling down to the title of the article, which is a link to the article itself in PDF format.