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A social constructionist critique and case study of mediation: No complaints, no choice, no problem

Jonathan Howard Millen, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation represents an effort to critically assess the practice of community mediation from a social constructionist perspective and to develop a method for its empirical analysis. While recognizing the value of this particular form of alternative dispute resolution, two fundamental problems are described that significantly limit its utility: The application of an oversimplified notion of communication and the employment of a problematic definition of success. These problems are explored through the development of "narrative" and "story-telling," two related metaphors that are used to capture the nature of communicative interaction. The value of the two metaphors is demonstrated through a mediation case study conducted via a methodology particularly designed for the analysis of mediation discourse. More specifically, the method is a combination of narrative analysis and the Coordinated Management of Meaning theory. Through their unique combination, some fundamental problems associated with the prevailing practice of mediation are documented and analyzed. Thus, the case study not only illustrates the value of the method used but it also provides empirical support for the critique on which it is based. The dissertation concludes with suggestions for how this research can improve the quality of community mediation practices.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Millen, Jonathan Howard, "A social constructionist critique and case study of mediation: No complaints, no choice, no problem" (1992). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9233111.