Supporting Argument in e-Democracy


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  • Background of argumentation and debate in e-Democracy and why they are important Existing tools that promote argument and debate and their limitations Argumentation schemes, a method of structuring argument , and how they can be used in e-Democracy to overcome shortfalls of existing systems Parmenides: tool to allow public consultation through debate. Parmenides uses arg schemes to structure debate . Scheme catalogue provides support for multiple, interacting, schemes
  • The government should consult the public before making major decisions or policy changes Many systems have been created to exploit this, and examples exist that are in use by governments The systems employ a wide variety of approaches to gather and analyse data
  • Basically online versions of paper petitions e-Petitions still in use Fox hunting debate Suggests that the Fox Hunting ban should be repealed Problem with e-Petitions, like paper-based versions, is that respondents cant be selective about which parts of argument they agree with
  • To overcome this problem, research has focussed on creating tools with an underlying formal structure Tools for argument visualisation simply map the positions put forward in a debate Araucaria: Input is a textual arg, output is a graphical map of the argument showing the various positions Tools for decision support not only map the positions, but evaluate them in order to provide support for making decisions Ease of use important in e-Democracy where people are from wide backgronds and unlikely to be familiar with formal argument structures
  • Like a template of a debate, with gaps for the relevant details to be filled in Arg from Exp Op – for using the opinion of an expert in your argument Fill in all of the red elements with the facts specific to your argument Your argument then becomes and instance of this scheme
  • Proponent of the argument needs to be able to defend it against all attacks by CQs
  • E.g. if we are responding to the statement of an expert, we may want to use the opinion of another expert, or we may want to use a different kind of argument altogether Are only some schemes appropriate for responding to each CQ? Are some more appropriate than others?
  • This is an argument scheme for practical reasoning i.e. arguing that an action should be carried out in order to realise a goal, which promotes a social value
  • So now, as well as knowing which part of an argument the respondent disagrees with, we can determine why they disagree. Because of the underlying structure this can all be analysed computationally
  • Government present policy proposals to public together with a justification Users critique proposal by answering questions related to the justification Website and database files allow the public to interact with the debate
  • Initial position of debate is an instance of this scheme
  • Entry interface: ensures semantics of scheme are retained so the system can use it correctly Catalogue: Additional info includes description of scheme, how and where the scheme is typically used, and examples of CQs
  • The justification is an instance of the practical reasoning scheme Presents a number of reasons for carrying out action Consists of circs, cons, social values Debate successfully implemented in Parmenides, can be viewed at URL on this slide
  • The supporting evidence is a pre-programmed response to one of the CQs Administrator uses scheme catalogue to choose appropriate scheme
  • MAIN: Zoomed out view of one justification of the argument. Central node is the initial position (justification for action). Each branch represents attack of CQ on the argument. Red, Green, Arrows LEFT: Shows one branch of framework. Green node circled indicates most users disagree with the circumstances. This attacks the initial justification because it says that part of the justification is not true. RIGHT: Shows an expansion of the circumstances branch to view supporting evidence. Can see the critical questions of the supporting evidence, so we can see if, and why, respondents disagree with it.
  • Gov can see which elements of their policy, or presentation of policy, need to be changed
  • Evaluation: Allowed a student at a university in Italy to set up a debate, number of students from that university participated. The student wrote about the system in his thesis. This has provided useful feedback. Large scale evaluation now in planning – we plan to work with the student guild at Liverpool uni to set up a debate which students can participate in. They already have a popular website which we will use to promote the debate.
  • Structure is required so that the resulting data can be analysed computationally
  • Supporting Argument in e-Democracy

    1. 1. Supporting Argument in e-Democracy Dan Cartwright, Katie Atkinson, and Trevor Bench-Capon Department of Computer Science, University of Liverpool, UK / 26 Presentation to EDEM 2009
    2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Background and existing tools </li></ul><ul><li>Introducing Parmenides </li></ul><ul><li>Parmenides argumentation scheme catalogue </li></ul><ul><li>Worked example </li></ul><ul><li>Argumentation schemes in e-Democracy </li></ul><ul><li>Future work and concluding remarks </li></ul>
    3. 3. Background <ul><li>Decision-making through public consultation important in e-Democracy </li></ul><ul><li>Systems exist to engage citizens in political debate online </li></ul><ul><li>Wide variety of approaches </li></ul><ul><li>Today I present a model of debate that attempts to overcome the limitations </li></ul><ul><li>Existing implementations have limitations </li></ul>
    4. 4. Recent Trends <ul><li>e-Petitions allow users to create and “sign” petitions over the internet </li></ul><ul><li>Example below based on The Fox Hunting Debate </li></ul><ul><li>UK government introduced an e-Petitions website in 2006 </li></ul>Problem: We do not know which part(s) of the petition the signatory agrees or disagrees with Must agree with all or nothing
    5. 5. Recent Trends <ul><li>Structured tools </li></ul><ul><li>Tools for argument visualisation </li></ul><ul><li>Example: Araucaria (Reed & Rowe, 2003) </li></ul><ul><li>Tools for decision support </li></ul><ul><li>Example: Zeno (Gordon & Karacapilidis, 1997) </li></ul><ul><li>Issues with ease of use by laypersons </li></ul><ul><li>Visualise textual arguments </li></ul>
    6. 6. Argumentation schemes <ul><li>Provide argument structure but also easy to understand and use </li></ul><ul><li>Argumentation schemes represent stereotypical patterns of reasoning </li></ul><ul><li>Example – Argument from Expert Opinion: </li></ul>“ Person E is an expert in Domain D . E asserts that Fact A is known to be true. A is within D . Therefore, A may plausibly be taken to be true. ”
    7. 7. Argumentation schemes (2) <ul><li>Schemes have associated Critical Questions (CQs) </li></ul><ul><li>Each scheme has its own set of questions </li></ul><ul><li>CQs challenge parts of the argument </li></ul>“ Person E is an expert in Domain D . E asserts that Fact A is known to be true. A is within D . Therefore, A may plausibly be taken to be true. ” <ul><li>Examples: </li></ul><ul><li>Is E biased? </li></ul><ul><li>Did E really assert A? </li></ul>
    8. 8. Argumentation schemes (3) <ul><li>How can we respond to critical questions? </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yes” or “No”, sometimes </li></ul><ul><li>In real world, often respond with another argument </li></ul><ul><li>Response may be a different argument type </li></ul><ul><li>Developing models of argument scheme interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Using one scheme to respond to Critical Questions of another </li></ul><ul><li>Which schemes can be used in each case? </li></ul><ul><li>Are some schemes more persuasive? </li></ul><ul><li>Classification of schemes </li></ul>
    9. 9. Argument Scheme interaction (1) <ul><li>Example: </li></ul>In the current circumstances R , we should perform action A, which will result in new circumstances S, which will realise goal G, which will promote some value V In the current circumstances there is a 27% unemployment rate in the UK (…)
    10. 10. Argument Scheme interaction (2) <ul><li>This statement is challenged by a Critical Question associated with the scheme: </li></ul>In the current circumstances there is a 27% unemployment rate in the UK (…) <ul><li>Response can be provided by instantiating a different argument scheme </li></ul>CQ1: Are the believed circumstances true? Is there a 27% unemployment rate in the UK?
    11. 11. Argument Scheme interaction (3) <ul><li>The critical question: </li></ul>Is there a 27% unemployment rate in the UK? <ul><li>Could be responded-to by the following evidence: </li></ul>Position to know: Person E is in a position to know whether Fact A is true. E asserts that A is true. Therefore A is true The Government is in a position to know the unemployment rate. The Government asserts that the unemployment rate in August 2009 is 27%. Therefore it is true that the unemployment rate in August 2009 is 27%.
    12. 12. <ul><li>Now, if the respondent questions the statement that there is a 27% unemployment rate in the UK … </li></ul>Argument Scheme interaction (4) <ul><li>He is presented with the evidence to support this claim </li></ul><ul><li>The evidence is presented as an instantiation of a different argument scheme </li></ul><ul><li>The user critiques the evidence by answering Critical Questions associated with the particular scheme </li></ul><ul><li>i.e. he poses the critical question “ Is there a 27% unemployment rate in the UK? ” </li></ul>
    13. 13. Introducing Parmenides <ul><li>An online forum ( K. Atkinson et. al., 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>Government present policy proposals </li></ul><ul><li>Users submit their critique of the proposal </li></ul><ul><li>Consists of 3 main elements: </li></ul><ul><li>Aims to provide structure to debate whilst remaining easy to use </li></ul><ul><li>Debate Creator </li></ul><ul><li>Debate critique interface </li></ul><ul><li>Debate analysis toolset </li></ul><ul><li>Debate administrator enters debate details </li></ul><ul><li>Website and database source files created automatically </li></ul><ul><li>Parmenides website allows users to participate in debate </li></ul><ul><li>Resulting data written to database </li></ul><ul><li>Graphical representation of data in database </li></ul><ul><li>Allows pinpointing elements of most agreement or disagreement </li></ul>
    14. 14. Parmenides – Argument Scheme <ul><li>Parmenides originally based on an argument scheme for practical reasoning </li></ul><ul><li>Further schemes now implemented to evaluate argument scheme interaction models </li></ul>“ In the current circumstances R, we should perform action A, which will result in new circumstances S, which will realise goal G, which will promote some value V” <ul><li>Users critique the argument by answering “Yes” or “No” to critical questions </li></ul>
    15. 15. Parmenides – Scheme Catalogue <ul><li>New set of tools for Parmenides to support multiple argumentation schemes and their interactions </li></ul><ul><li>Consists of two components: </li></ul><ul><li>Scheme entry interface – guides the administrator through adding an argumentation scheme </li></ul><ul><li>Web-based catalogue – database of schemes within the system, with additional information, to assist debate creators </li></ul>
    16. 16. Parmenides – Worked Example <ul><li>A fully-worked example of how a debate is used and analysed within Parmenides </li></ul><ul><li>Our example is The Speed Camera Debate </li></ul><ul><li>Based around the installation of more speed cameras on UK roads </li></ul><ul><li>Proposed action: Install more speed cameras </li></ul>
    17. 17. Parmenides – Worked Example (2) <ul><li>Justification for installing more speed cameras: </li></ul>(
    18. 18. Parmenides – Worked Example (3) <ul><li>We want to add supporting evidence for the statement “ there is a high death toll on UK roads ” </li></ul><ul><li>Argument scheme is chosen and instantiated </li></ul>“ Expert A is in a position to know whether Fact F is true. Expert A assert(s) that Fact F is true. Therefore Fact F is true” “ The chief police officer (CPO) is in a position to know whether there is a high death toll on UK roads . The CPO asserts that there is a high death toll on UK roads . Therefore it is true that there is a high death toll on UK roads ”
    19. 19. Parmenides – Worked Example (4) <ul><li>If a respondent to the debate disagrees that “ there is a high death toll on UK roads ”… </li></ul><ul><li>… he is presented with the supporting evidence </li></ul><ul><li>He critiques the evidence using the CQs from the relevant argument scheme </li></ul>
    20. 20. Branch of attack Justification for action <ul><li>Red node - most respondents disagreed with statement </li></ul><ul><li>Green node - most respondents agreed with statement </li></ul><ul><li>Arrows connect opposing statements </li></ul>Parmenides – Worked Example (5) <ul><li>Resulting data analysed using Argumentation Frameworks </li></ul>
    21. 21. Parmenides – Worked Example (6) <ul><li>Frameworks allow fine-grained analysis of debate </li></ul><ul><li>Which part of debate is most agreed/disagreed with </li></ul><ul><li>Which particular justification for action causes most conflict </li></ul><ul><li>Analysis of argument scheme interactions </li></ul><ul><li>Richer information about why users disagree with particular elements </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. see whether most disagreements are about subjective or more objective, fact-based elements </li></ul>
    22. 22. <ul><li>Further extend the number of argumentation schemes available in Parmenides </li></ul>Future work <ul><li>Evaluation criteria </li></ul><ul><li>Expressive enough for debate creators? </li></ul><ul><li>Ease of use for participants </li></ul><ul><li>Usefulness of debate analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation of the system </li></ul><ul><li>Some evaluation already carried out </li></ul><ul><li>Large-scale evaluation currently in planning </li></ul>
    23. 23. Conclusion <ul><li>Parmenides provides a practical implementation of the scheme interaction models </li></ul><ul><li>Argumentation schemes can be used to structure debates </li></ul><ul><li>Interaction of argumentation schemes allows more in-depth debating to take place </li></ul><ul><li>Future work involves expanding the schemes in Parmenides, and large-scale evaluation </li></ul><ul><li>We try to balance structure and expressiveness </li></ul>
    24. 24. Thankyou for your attention <ul><li>Questions? </li></ul><ul><li>For further information on the topics discussed: </li></ul><ul><li>Publications: </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Parmenides: </li></ul><ul><li>The Parmenides system can be used at </li></ul>