Argument and debate are cornerstones of civilized society and intellectual life. As online activity usurps many traditional forms of communication, we would hope to see these processes alive and well on the Web as well. But we do not. Too many mechanisms for online interaction hamper and discourage debate, facilitating poor-quality argument and fuzzy thinking. Needed are new tools, systems, and standards engineered into the heart of the Web to encourage debate, facilitate good argument, and promote a new online critical literacy. This is the Argument Web vision, involving a Web platform combining linked argument data with software tools that make online debate intuitive for its participants, including mediators, students, academics, broadcasters, and bloggers.
New opinions are constantly being presented on websites, blogs, news sites, and discussion forums, challenged and evaluated by a diverse worldwide user group. An important problem is the semantic structure of argumentative viewpoints; for example, whether one person agrees with another or whether a particular statement conflicts with a claim is not captured. A further problem is there is no representation of how arguments across the Web relate to one another and contribute to the overall picture. Despite the numerous vocal communities on the Web, they remain relatively isolated because opinions are not connected.
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