AMHERST, Mass. - The Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution (CITDR) at the University of Massachusetts is sponsoring a free, five-day, all-online series of workshops, discussions, courses, and software demonstrations on resolving disputes that arise in cyberspace. The event is called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) CyberWeek 2001 and will run from Feb. 26 to March 2.
The CITDR focuses on understanding the nature of online conflicts and how to use the Internet to resolve disputes, according to its co-director, Ethan Katsh. The growth of electronic commerce has focused attention on the need for online forms of dispute resolution, he says, and new solutions are being advocated by the Federal Trade Commission and international organizations.
Katsh, a professor of legal studies at UMass, says ADR CyberWeek can serve several critical functions in the fast-changing world of cyberspace. For example, he says, there are many new ventures on the Web concerned with online conflict. "There are marketplaces, such as eBay, which have dispute resolution expertise accessible at the click of a mouse," Katsh says. "There is also an arbitration system for domain name disputes that has handled more than 2,000 complaints in a year. Online dispute resolution is a growth area because it builds trust among users of any Web site." Katsh estimates that 50,000 disputes were resolved by online dispute resolution entities last year and they will handle many times that number this year.
Participants in CyberWeek 2001 will also be able to engage in online simulations, discuss techniques with an online mediator and arbitrator, examine new research, and consider special issues that might not be present in offline ADR. "The overall goal is to help people see the Web as a positive communication resource that can be used to settle disputes," Katsh says. As part of CyberWeek 2001, Katsh is also auctioning the domain name onlinedisputes.com and donating the proceeds to earthquake relief efforts in India.