Grumpy Old Debate

image of people with speech bubbles

How do we get more people involved in better arguments?

The University of Dundee’s Argumentation Research Group is investigating the nature of the argument, how to create better discussions, and how to involve more people. It is focused both on how an argument is constructed, and how it can be effectively analysed using artificial intelligence.

One strand of its work is the Grumpy Old Debate, a project with BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze designed to encourage more older people to participate in the programme. Instead of siphoning all debate to social media platforms, listeners are invited to contribute by saying their piece into an open phone line.

Arguments are tracked using speech recognition technology and sentiment analysis, and included in the debate. Listeners are able to get involved in a discussion without using technology they are unfamiliar with, and programmers are able to get views and reactions from a broader cross-section of the community.

The group is also creating tools and technologies that enable programmers to map the flow of an argument, including software that analyses whether a caller is agreeing or disagreeing with a point, and pinpoint which argument the listener was reacting to. This helps researchers and programmers map out the reaction to a programme in real time.

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Bex, F., Lawrence, J., Snaith, M. & Reed, C.A. (2013) “Implementing the Argument Web”, Communications of the ACM, 56 (10), pp66-73.

R.Medellin, C.Reed, V.Hanson. A protocol for software-supported interaction with broadcast debates, Digital Economy 2013, Open Digital, MediaCity UK Salford, November 2013.
Snaith, M., Medellin, R., Lawrence, J. and Reed, C. (to appear) (2013) “Arguers and the Argument Web” in Proceedings of CMNA 2013, Springer. In Press.