Mediation 2.0: Hacking conflict in the 21st century

Hacking conflict in the 21st century“Hacking” is a word tainted by controversy. While it often evokes images of teenaged malcontents exploiting security vulnerabilities in computer networks, it possesses other more affirmative meanings.

Hacking also means “the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations“. It stands for an ingenious way of solving intractable problems or providing new functionality to an object different from its intended purpose.

Anything can be hacked. Software applications and Department of Defense databases–that goes without saying. But also video games, consumer goods, religion, and, well, life.

And, would you believe, even urban and industrial landscapes. Consider parkour, an urban sport that combines physical and intellectual agility. In parkour, the only direction is forward as participants creatively maneuver and strategize their way past obstacles in their physical environment. It’s as much about quick reflexes as it is about quick thinking. Participants in a sense must grasp the solution at the moment they perceive the challenge. It’s about reframing the material world by transforming barriers into passageways.

Fortunately mediation doesn’t require physical strength (or we’d all be in big trouble). But it does depend upon the skill of the mediator to help disputants limber up brain cells and keep minds open to possibility and potential.

Mediators, who mediate between the past and the present, experience and hope, uncertainty and optimism, can draw inspiration from metaphors like these.

Although conflict and impasse are age-old, we can use the language of today to revolutionize the way we think about our practice as mediators to see our craft in a new light. We aid disputants in hacking the narratives of their own conflicts. We push them to alter the code of the past to pareto optimize their way beyond the limits of their own ingenuity. And we can use technology to revolutionize the resolution of disputes and to transform dialogue itself.

Welcome to Mediation 2.0.

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