The University of Sussex

Handling conflict between domain descriptions with computer-supported negotiation

Steve Easterbrook

Conflict is an inevitable part of both knowledge elicitation and system design. People will disagree over how to interpret features of the application domain, what the requirements for a new system are, and how to meet those requirements. Conventional systems analysis techniques avoid such conflicts, making any resolution untraceable and adding to the communication problems. This paper surveys a number of fields which have addressed the problems of conflict resolution. A model of computer-supported negotiation is presented which can be used to address conflicts in systems analysis directly. The model begins with an exploratory phase, in which the conflict is broken down into its components, eliciting the issues which underlie disagreements and criteria to measure their satisfaction. A set of options for possible resolutions are generated using design techniques. Finally, these options are compared to the original issues, and evaluated according to the criteria associated with the issues. The model emphasizes communication, and encourages investigation of other viewpoints. The model has been used to develop a system called Synoptic, which provides a set of tools to support the exploration of conflicts.

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