“Our lives are rooted in story. Our stories are our lives. We find out who we are by the stories we tell and are told. The lives we live and the conflicts we embrace are held together by motif and myth. If we are to gain a sense of who we are, where we stand in the world, what our relationship in and with the world is to be, then we must see how our story works. A story is a way to articulate what it is we are living through and how the world lives in us as we live in it … Stories give meaning to common and shared experience.” 
In several recent posts I’ve touched on issues of culture, perception and conflict raised by observers like Nisbett and Kim, and by commentaries on mediation and dispute resolution in China. In thinking about this question of geography and disputing I’m reminded of my first encounters with the icon of the “geography of place”, Yi-Fu Tuan, Emeritus Professor of Geography at the University of Madison, Wisconsin. My former university library had the happy practice of displaying new books for a couple of weeks, allowing magpies like myself to see what else was out there other than the books that were more obviously related to my ‘home’ discipline (law). And Prof Tuan’s was one of the early discoveries
Have a look at Prof Tuan’s home page: http://www.yifutuan.org/. And a biography of Prof Tuan: http://geography.about.com/od/historyofgeography/a/yifutuan.htm
The point of mentioning this:
- to pick up and continue the earlier threads on “place” and conflict resolution;
- to incorporate Prof Tuan’s linking of place, aesthetics, ecology and perception into those earlier comments on culture and dispute resolution;
- to reinforce the idea that “experience” – whether it’s aesthetic or otherwise – is ‘located’;
- to recognise that THIS is also part of what is contested in conflict: our perceptions, as well as the literal physical space in which they are grounded, is at issue;
- and to recognise that while there might be common ground in much of our negotiation and mediation practice, that common ground is also mediated via our perceptions.
There’s also a lovely collection of letters that Prof Tuan has written over the years to his colleagues at the University: http://www.yifutuan.org/archive/2009/index.htm
Now, just one question for the moment arising from this: if, as this line of thinking suggests, place, location, space, and geography matter, in shaping our perceptions and responses, what changes are likely to take place – to have already taken place – in the online world? If, as is already the case, millions of people have millions of “friends” with whom they share the daily details of their lives, without having necessarily met them, or at least without regular contact, does “place” matter as much?
Does geography matter more to the “digital immigrants” than to “digital natives” – the latter being that generation who have grown up with the familiarity and expectations of the digital world? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_native; http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
- better connected to each other and the rest of the world through the Internet; and
- increasingly disconnected from the contexts and culture in which they physically live?
At the very least, the nature of ‘participation’ changes as there is scope for enhanced global participation and, at the same time, a risk of retreat from domestic participation if there is a greater sense of affiliation and common ground with dispersed others. See Merlyna Lim, Islamic Radicalism and Anti-Americanism in Indonesia: The Role of the Internet, (East-West Centre, Washington, 2005)
“For those people who are or perceive themselves as marginalized, the Internet provides new openings and configurations in order to scale up their movements and relate local events to global levels and scale them back down again to local levels in a manner that can empower a handful of people beyond any level previously imagined. But in a world of intensifying cyber-traffic, this sudden empowerment avoids ephemerality only to the extent to which is can tap into larger identity and political structures.” 
At the best, there might be a new kind of geography:
Blulmer and Coleman have argued that the internet possesses ‘a vulnerable potential’ for this role [ie civic engagement and deliberation] and that the creation of a ‘civic commons in cyberspace’ which ‘could become part of the democratic furniture: an integral component of the representative system (the Commons) and an open space for the represented to gather and talk (the civic commons).’
(Coleman and Gøtze, 11, citing J G Blumler and S Coleman, Realising Democracy Online: A Civic Commons in Cyberspace IPPR/Citizens Online, 2001, p. 4-5)
 Eli Wiesel, quoted in J. Elkins, “The quest for meaning: narrative accounts of legal education,”Jnl of Legal Education v. 38 (Dec. ’88) p. 577-98