We present a tool that demonstrates the complex dynamical properties of conflict systems in a simple and accessible way. The Attractor Software® assists students, policy-makers and conflict stakeholders in applying the dynamical systems perspective to complex conflict situations. It’s a tool that illustrates the dynamical properties and the complexity of the systems people deal with when confronted to conflict situations. The device is a tool, not a heuristic: it assists people who deal with complex conflict systems in visualizing and evaluating the situation, but it does not provide ready made solutions. The tool is a user-friendly, interactive computer simulation based on the dynamical-systems approach to conflict. The Attractor Software® is used both as a decision-making device, assisting policy makers in decision making, and as a negotiation tool for complex, multi-stakeholders negotiations, it also serves as an educational tool, where the dynamical properties of extended, systemic conflict situations are illustrated.

As a negotiation tool, the device puts a strong emphasis on the dynamical properties of negotiated agreements. By visualizing their long-term consequences, the tool assists the parties in negotiating comprehensive, sustainable solutions. For multi-stakeholder negotiations, it also facilitates complexity management: the Attractor Software® creates a platform, where a multitude of issues can be processed simultaneously. Additionally, the device illustrates short-term, nonlinear transitions and unpredicted systemic effects. The tool is interactive in the sense that it is mainly based on the parties’ expertise: the content of the simulation (factors, issues and their subjective values) is put in by the negotiating parties. What the Attractor Software® provides thus, is not an expert forecasting tool, but rather a plain platform, where the parties can put in, systematize, and visualize their agreement in the context of the whole conflict system and its dynamics. Latent conflicts, long-term consequences, short-term, nonlinear dynamics and systemic forces are graphically depicted throughout the whole negotiation process as consequences of a given structure of interests. Parties can play and test different effects, modifying the expected long-term and short term consequences of the negotiated agreements.

The user-friendly interface of the Attractor Software®, although presenting very complex, dynamical mechanisms is simple and accessible for large public. The tool has been tested in various groups: from high school students, through conflict-practitioners to psychology students. After each session, the device has been refined, simplified and made more accessible. Although very intuitive, the dynamical systems approach to conflicts, on which the tool is based, needs to be explained. A short introduction to such key dynamical concepts as attractors, driving forces’ landscape and momentary states constitute an integral part of the tool and needs to precede each session, before the Attractor Software® is being used.

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Design Pawel Haltof
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