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The Potential of Argument Visualization Platforms and Empathy Induction to Promote Humility in Public Discourse

Media
Political Psychology
Internet
Experimental Design
Field Experiments
Technology
Michael Morrell
University of Connecticut
Paolo Spada
University of Southampton
Michael Morrell
University of Connecticut
Graham Smith
University of Westminster
Paolo Spada
University of Southampton

Abstract

Traditional online comment boards suffer from significant communicative deficits, including informational cascades, scattered content, and low information-to-noise ratio. Recent events (e.g. Brexit, Trump campaign) have raised the profile of further distortions such as trolls and fake news. Technologies that exploit argument visualization have been developed with the aim of improving the communicative quality of online interactions. In this paper, we explore the results of the Scholio project http://www.scholio.net/ that delivered a randomized controlled trial to test the feasibility and effects of adopting two argument visualization technologies to support discussion of online news. The first, Pol.is, simplifies users’ interactions with the objective of maximizing inclusion and overcoming the limits of standard commenting platforms that engage only a small minority of the public. Pol.is combines user generated comments, survey responses, clustering of information, argument visualization and commenting. It has been adopted in various public debates, in particular in Taiwan and will be part of the Consul platform, one of the widely adopted digital participation software in the world. The second technology, Deliberatorium, takes a different approach, engaging participants in the construction of a structured argument map. Alongside the variations in platform design, the experiment also tests a empathy inducing perspective taking treatment assigned at the group level and orthogonal to the platform treatments. The objective of this study is to analyze the impact of the different treatments to engagement, usability, quality of deliberation participants’ attitudes and behavior. In particular, the experiment will track the ability of different approaches to online engagement to promote intellectual humility and considered judgment among participants. The study aims to contribute to the challenge of building online participatory spaces that support democratic deliberation and intellectual humility in public discourse.