All argumentative roads lead to Amsterdam …

posted by Francis Chateauraynaud

July 12th 2010

Thanks to discussions I recently had with Assimakis Tseronis, a young researcher involved in the field of argumentation studies1 who works with us as post-doc partner on the project called “Chimères nanobiotechnologiques”, I return from Amsterdam with interesting news concerning the fascinating growing relationships between argumentation and computing. Among the discoveries I made during the 7th ISSA Congress (June 29th – July 2th), I must first mention the launch of a new journal called Argument & Computation, whose first volume was published a few months ago, in March 2010. With such a title, it cannot be anything but a highly relevant piece of news for our frenchy research blog! Indeed, it would be difficult to ignore the surprising symetry between the two titles: “Socio-informatique et Argumentation” (socio-informatics and argumentation), on the one hand; “Argument and Computation” on the other hand! I don’t know how useful it can be to extend the  comparison and contrast between the two, but even if in our case the corpuses and the tools are clearly separated from formal modelling of argumentation, it could be fruitful to explore, or to try building a bridge between the two archipelagos of knowledge production.


Website of the Journal : Argument&Computation

Obviously, in this journal, launched by Taylor & Francis, you will not find some socio-discipline at first rank; and the term ‘computation’ cannot be confused with ‘informatics’. But for sure, it will be interesting to test whether we can submit some papers in this scientific journal. In the journal’s presentation, we read:

Argument and Computation aims to promote the interaction and cross-fertilisation between the fields of argumentation theory and computer science. It will be of interest to researchers in the fields of artificial intelligence, multi-agent systems, computer science, logic, philosophy, argumentation theory, psychology, cognitive science, game theory and economics. The new journal will not solicit papers that are wholly within the theory of argumentation without application (practical or theoretical) within artificial intelligence or computer science, nor will it solicit computational work that fails to employ argumentation as a core focus.

So, the challenge is open: even if we can presume that our approach of argumentation, deeply grounded on argumentative sociology, the latter being based on a reinterpretation of pragmatics for social sciences, is not in the same stream followed by philosophers and theoreticians like Michael Gilbert, David Hitchcock, Fabio Paglieri, Frans van Eemeren or Douglas Walton, the different attempts for modelling types of arguments and argumentative movements through Prospéro’s algorithms and structures may be very informative – especially if it raises critiques!

nooduitgang / emergency exit - vrijhouden : keep clear

In the same cluster of concerns, I must mention another discovery, also thanks to our colleague: a software, Araucaria, has been specifically designed for analysing arguments. Actually, one does not need to go very far for this piece of news,  since  Chris Reed (School of Computing, University of Dundee, UK) who is the developer of Araucaria is also at the head of the journal we have presented  above!

What kind of analysis does a tool like Araucaria provide? Using a quite simple interface, it aids a user in reconstructing and diagramming an argument. The software also supports argumentation schemes, and provides a user-customisable set of schemes with which to analyse arguments. A portable format called AML (for Argument Markup Language), based on XML, is used by a community of scholars to create, share and explore a database: AraucariaDB gives access to a corpus of argumentation collected by scholars from around the world: Access to AraucariaDB

I do not have enough distance and reading to engage in a technical comment on this approach. This post was only intended as an invitation to its readers, and especially users of Prospéro and Marlowe, for whom this could be a kind of holiday task ;-): to discover this parallel galaxy and to suggest ways to fill the apparent gap between current trends in formal reasoning and argumentative sociology based on corpus analysis.

Due to the heatwave, my first intention to give a brief summary of the sessions that I attended has been impossible to achieve. But I cannot keep myself from reporting here that I have transformed the 276 abstracts gleaned from the site of the ISSA 2010 in a corpus now available under Prospéro! With Assimakis’s help I will compare the general topics and theoretical frameworks made visible by this corpus with those of the previous congress, held in 2006! Anyway, it promises to be a text with some interesting results!

(Click on the pic to enlarge it)

View on the “collections”: distribution of the main authors mentioned in the 276 abstracts. Rest assured, Aristotle still tops the charts!

  1. see his text posted a few weeks ago : “A la recherche des marqueurs argumentatifs, 12 avril 2010″ []

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