3, Number 1, Oct 2002
of a Low-Tech Social Scientist
am still not at home in our computer age. I do not know
what people are talking about when they discuss computer
hardware, and I always need special help when I start to
use a new kind of software. I was a long holdout against
e-mail, and I still receive it only at school, keeping me
unbothered at home by a flurry of e-mail messages. I am
not a Web surfer. Basically I use the Web only when I have
a specific objective in mind. Yet, despite all this, I now
find myself as the instructor of a Web-based course. How
this came to be I would like to recount in these "confessions."
It certainly did not happen suddenly. It happened through
a cumulative sequence of events over a period of years.
These events might be summarized in terms of the following
key developments: the program; the book; the television
course; and getting on the Internet.
have been teaching courses in social conflict for more
than 35 years. I did this primarily as a scholar, not
as a social activist. However, in the early 1990s, I became
increasingly aware of a widespread interest in conflict
resolution practices. I took mediation training and became
aware of the effectiveness of conflict management tools
and the practical help such tools offer to all kinds of
people. Working then with others in the Department of
Sociology, I developed a graduate program at ISU in conflict
resolution. In this, we were especially trying to bring
together scholarly work with the more applied concerns
of practitioners. We would take very seriously the scientific
studies of conflict; however, we would try to relate them
to what people find to be practical tools for conflict
of course, was a very ambitious undertaking. One of the
problems we faced was the absence of a good textbook that
would bring the interests of academics and practitioners
together. I started to write such a book and sent sample
chapters out to several publishers.
was not my first book on social conflict. One such previous
book, The Science of Conflict (Oxford University Press,
1982), was very well received by other scholars. However,
the present book was to include a more practical orientation.
This posed some problems, for work in the field was
pretty sharply divided into scholarly and practitioner
markets. Nevertheless, I finally found a publisher,
and my book came out in 1996 (Conflict Resolution: Theory,
Research, and Practice, published by the State University
of New York Press).
the book project done, I sought to promote the ideas
of our program and my book for a larger audience. I
cannot be sure just what combination of altruism, vanity,
and simple dedication to the tasks I had started was
involved in my motives. I knew there were a lot of people
out there who needed more solid grounding in the field
of conflict studies than would trickle in through our
on-campus graduate offerings. Also, since our program
was unique to Indiana, I explored the possibility of
using the television delivery platform offered via the
Indiana Higher Education Telecommunications System.
a course via television provided some very special challenges
for me. I had to get over some of my camera self-consciousness,
and adapt some of the techniques, such as PowerPoint,
that would provide special aids for distance students.
I involved other Indiana State University faculty members
in taped interviews, which I felt added a lot to the
course. The course included a basic grounding in social
conflict theory and research (the more skills development
work came primarily through later on campus workshops),
and this was sometimes hard to achieve in a format that
mostly extended an on-campus class to the off-campus
world. Fortunately, I always had an on-campus group
as an anchor. However, we did not reach a sufficient
number of students to justify our continuing use of
an IHETS channel. Besides, in this kind of pre-sentation,
there were special difficulties, such as being able
to hear fully from the students at a distance and the
general artificiality of trying to extend the classroom
by this new means. I began to explore what might be
possible for a Web-based course.
project of Campus Conflict Resolution
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo
to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.
send comments, bug reports, etc. to the Editor.
© 2000-2005 William C. Warters & WSU,
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