OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

Social Reality Construction

Paul Wehr


How humans explain what is happening as they interact is important for understanding social conflict. Berger and Luckman ( 1966 ) see conflict as created socially by the conflict parties out of their everyday activity. This process of social creation happens as we first externalize what we believe is happening. For example, when we make a new friend (or enemy), we create a relationship. We recreate it each time we interact with that friend (or enemy). (For example, two physicists often have need for the same lab space, equipment and graduate student at the same time. On one such occasion, they have a nasty encounter in which personal insults occur. From that time forward, the joint problem of scarce resources is redefined by each as a conflict.) The new product (friendship or conflictive relationship) is then objectified as it fits into the descriptive terminology and other parts of the objective order society already has in place to describe such interaction. We then internalize that new "objective reality," feeling that it fits our experience and we act accordingly. It thus becomes "reality" for us even though our perception may have little basis in fact. Each conflict becomes a clash of contending realties, with opponents convinced it is factually based.  Getting conflict parties to question the objective reality of their conflict permits them to identify aspects of it truly in opposition from those that are not. Once they realize they are not in total conflict, they can begin to cooperate in turning the conflicting interests into a problem to be solved. If a conflict is a "reality" constructed by opponents, it can just as well be reconstructed by them into less costly or more cooperative forms. They reconceptualize reality as something they produce and can thus reconstruct toward cooperative relations.  Enemy images are the most harmful and resistant form of constructed conflict reality. One believes and expects the worst of an enemy. Getting opponents to reconstruct their "enemy reality" has been the focus of several "enemy reality" reconstruction projects. 

Supporting Literature: Peter Berger & Thomas Luckmann (1966) The Social Construction of Reality , New York: Doubleday


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