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Information Technology and International Relations: Using On Line, Interactive Simulations to Transcend Time, Space, and Attitudes
Unformatted Document Text:  Citizen to citizen international relations includes activities as diverse as Doctors without Borders and Habitat for Humanity, Oxfam and International Adoption. It involves churches, associations of professionals, and ordinary tourists seeking information and influence in world affairs. Citizen to citizen international relations may be defined as “interactions…established between citizens of different states for the explicit purpose of discussing (or) changing… international political, social or economic affairs” (Howard-Hassmann 2000, 10). This expansive, transnational exchange was permitted by the end of the cold war and the accelerating process of globalization. It is now propelled by a second emerging trend in global affairs, changes in the nature of international communication. Until recently, it was difficult if not impossible for individuals from distant countries to contact, understand, and influence one another. One hundred years ago, it took a traveler as long to journey from one end of France to the other as it now takes a tourist to go anywhere in the world. As a result, individuals travel widely, visiting people in cultures very different from their own. Study abroad programs long attempted to bring together people of different nations and cultures, aimed at increased global understanding. Area studies and foreign language training sought similar ends. Foreign summer travel for students, teachers and professionals provided them new perspectives on the world. Beyond such travel opportunities, often limited to individuals with discretionary financial resources, information technology makes “virtual visits” possible from one's home or office. Email as well as Internet based voice and video communication encourages on-going contact. Given the nature of today's electronic media, every human being with access to a computer can be “a potential actor in world politics (Nossal 1998, 121). Thus, the opportunities for virtual visits to other countries through information technology provide individuals with connections to other cultures, their values and citizens. This can lead to an increased awareness about international affairs and a greater sense of empathy with people far beyond the borders of a nation state. This paper presents an example of virtual “citizen-to-citizen” international relations in the form of an on-line simulation. Participants from the United States “visit” the Middle East to learn about security policy, communicate with counterparts in the region, and interact with one another to resolve conflict. The project aims at fostering a sense of empathy in the participants, helping them understand more fully the nature of community values, national interest and international politics. This project’s focus is the Middle East, but its methods for encouraging role playing as well as its use of information technology and the Internet to conduct research and communicate may help others involved in teaching and learning through simulations. The paper begins with a discussion of empathy and simulation role playing, suggesting some practical steps to help students better adopt simulation roles; it illustrates these

Authors: Stover, William.
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Citizen to citizen international relations includes activities as diverse as Doctors without
Borders and Habitat for Humanity, Oxfam and International Adoption. It involves
churches, associations of professionals, and ordinary tourists seeking information and
influence in world affairs. Citizen to citizen international relations may be defined as
“interactions…established between citizens of different states for the explicit purpose of
discussing (or) changing… international political, social or economic affairs” (Howard-
Hassmann 2000, 10).

This expansive, transnational exchange was permitted by the end of the cold war and the
accelerating process of globalization. It is now propelled by a second emerging trend in
global affairs, changes in the nature of international communication. Until recently, it
was difficult if not impossible for individuals from distant countries to contact,
understand, and influence one another. One hundred years ago, it took a traveler as long
to journey from one end of France to the other as it now takes a tourist to go anywhere in
the world. As a result, individuals travel widely, visiting people in cultures very different
from their own.

Study abroad programs long attempted to bring together people of different nations and
cultures, aimed at increased global understanding. Area studies and foreign language
training sought similar ends. Foreign summer travel for students, teachers and
professionals provided them new perspectives on the world.

Beyond such travel opportunities, often limited to individuals with discretionary financial
resources, information technology makes “virtual visits” possible from one's home or
office. Email as well as Internet based voice and video communication encourages on-
going contact. Given the nature of today's electronic media, every human being with
access to a computer can be “a potential actor in world politics (Nossal 1998, 121). Thus,
the opportunities for virtual visits to other countries through information technology
provide individuals with connections to other cultures, their values and citizens. This can
lead to an increased awareness about international affairs and a greater sense of empathy
with people far beyond the borders of a nation state.

This paper presents an example of virtual “citizen-to-citizen” international relations in the
form of an on-line simulation. Participants from the United States “visit” the Middle East
to learn about security policy, communicate with counterparts in the region, and interact
with one another to resolve conflict. The project aims at fostering a sense of empathy in
the participants, helping them understand more fully the nature of community values,
national interest and international politics. This project’s focus is the Middle East, but its
methods for encouraging role playing as well as its use of information technology and the
Internet to conduct research and communicate may help others involved in teaching and
learning through simulations.

The paper begins with a discussion of empathy and simulation role playing, suggesting
some practical steps to help students better adopt simulation roles; it illustrates these


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