Videoconferencing made for Dr. Phil

While videoconferencing has proven its worth for corporate meetings and distance learning, researchers say the technology could also play a big role in mediating disputes between coworkers, neighbors and family members.

Researchers from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom interviewed a dozen conciliators to determine their views on what it would be like to use video technology in their jobs. The researchers say video holds the promise of being useful because it can better translate the emotional state of the parties involved and reduces possible intimidation when parties are in the same room.

“Most of the conciliation to sort out disputes between employees is done by phone because for the conciliator, who may have as many as 70 or 80 cases to deal with at once, it can be difficult, costly and slow to arrange to see people in person,” said Department of Computer Science Director of Studies Leon Watts in a statement. “In situations of high conflict, it can be hard to get to the real issues, to judge what people really care about, on the phone. So using a video link, in which the conciliator can in addition see each of the disputing parties, is a step forward: it gives them new options for appreciating parties’ depth of concern about different issues.”

The increased availability of broadband services and improved video quality combine to make widespread videoconferencing feasible, the researchers said. The researchers plan to work with a conciliation training organization to spread the word on videoconferencing.

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