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Developing Empathy to Understand the Middle East: The Use of Information Technology to Help Transcend Ethno-Centric Thinking
Unformatted Document Text:  For our work, we define empathy as the ability of one individual to experience the values, feelings and perceptions of another. It is facilitated through knowledge about other persons’ perceptions and values as well as the opportunity to act on their behalf. We sought to apply the concept in an on-line, strategic simulation involving American participants acting as decision makers from the Middle East. International Conflict Simulation As part of course introducing international relations to undergraduates at Santa Clara University, 90 students participated in our international conflict simulation involving the Middle East over three quarters during the academic year 2001. Our subjects were students with little if any knowledge of the Middle East, other than the casual reading or viewing they might have done through American media sources. Their information about the region was limited, their preconceptions of the issues minimal, their values largely unformed; and they might be open to experiencing a greater sense of empathy with the nations involved. Participants chose countries to represent, and then selected decision-making roles within their countries: heads of state or government, foreign ministers or ambassadors, and national security advisors. One group acted in the roles of non-governmental, paramilitary organizations--Hamas and Hizbollah. Additionally, a group of students at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco represented the Moroccan government. Students made their choices of countries and roles early in the ten-week quarter so they could become acquainted with the members of their “country team” and fill out a simple survey assessing their views on Arabs or Israelis, depending on the country they chose to represent. As part of the introductory course, they read several articles about the Middle East, attended three lectures, and saw three video documentaries dealing with Palestinian-Israeli conflict, militant Islamic fundamentalism, and the history of United States relations with Iraq. Their preparation for the simulation involved research for a 10 to 15 page term paper oriented around their simulated country. Heads of state wrote about the goals of their country in the Middle East, foreign ministers wrote about the history of relations between their country and others in the simulation, and national security advisors wrote about their country's security situation. Students representing Hamas or Hizbollah wrote about the goals, strategy and tactics of these organizations. The research required three types of sources: recent academic journals, current news media, and Internet sites from the countries they represented. The latter included hundreds of sources made available on our web site. This meant students had to look beyond the American oriented media and academic community, “visiting” sites from the Middle East made available on-line. The papers were subjective rather than objective efforts, probably unlike any research the participants had previously conducted, and the project required careful explanation. We told them the paper should not be a neutral, balanced report. Rather, participants

Authors: Stover, William.
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For our work, we define empathy as the ability of one individual to experience the values,
feelings and perceptions of another. It is facilitated through knowledge about other
persons’ perceptions and values as well as the opportunity to act on their behalf. We
sought to apply the concept in an on-line, strategic simulation involving American
participants acting as decision makers from the Middle East.
International Conflict Simulation
As part of course introducing international relations to undergraduates at Santa Clara
University, 90 students participated in our international conflict simulation involving the
Middle East over three quarters during the academic year 2001. Our subjects were
students with little if any knowledge of the Middle East, other than the casual reading or
viewing they might have done through American media sources. Their information about
the region was limited, their preconceptions of the issues minimal, their values largely
unformed; and they might be open to experiencing a greater sense of empathy with the
nations involved.

Participants chose countries to represent, and then selected decision-making roles within
their countries: heads of state or government, foreign ministers or ambassadors, and
national security advisors. One group acted in the roles of non-governmental,
paramilitary organizations--Hamas and Hizbollah. Additionally, a group of students at
Al Akhawayn University in Morocco represented the Moroccan government. Students
made their choices of countries and roles early in the ten-week quarter so they could
become acquainted with the members of their “country team” and fill out a simple survey
assessing their views on Arabs or Israelis, depending on the country they chose to
represent. As part of the introductory course, they read several articles about the Middle
East, attended three lectures, and saw three video documentaries dealing with Palestinian-
Israeli conflict, militant Islamic fundamentalism, and the history of United States
relations with Iraq.

Their preparation for the simulation involved research for a 10 to 15 page term paper
oriented around their simulated country. Heads of state wrote about the goals of their
country in the Middle East, foreign ministers wrote about the history of relations between
their country and others in the simulation, and national security advisors wrote about their
country's security situation. Students representing Hamas or Hizbollah wrote about the
goals, strategy and tactics of these organizations.

The research required three types of sources: recent academic journals, current news
media, and Internet sites from the countries they represented. The latter included
hundreds of sources made available on our web site. This meant students had to look
beyond the American oriented media and academic community, “visiting” sites from the
Middle East made available on-line.

The papers were subjective rather than objective efforts, probably unlike any research the
participants had previously conducted, and the project required careful explanation. We
told them the paper should not be a neutral, balanced report. Rather, participants


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