The Future of Online Discussions – #FoOD2020


About the Conference

+++We are really sorry to announce that due to the current situation with regard to COVID19 (Coronavirus) and the cancelation of several talks the event will be postponed. We will post information within the next weeks+++

Whether in comment sections of news media, via social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, in online discussion fora or on public consultation platforms: millions of people engage in online discussions every day. Based on extensive research and practical experience, it is well known that the way online discussions take place today exhibits many problems, including balkanization, lack of rational discourse, incivility or a high degree of redundancy.

There have been many proposals by scientific communities how to overcome some of these problems. Those include structuring discussions through argumentation maps, building a web of reusable arguments, automated summaries and additional interaction features such as ratings. Additionally, research has identified factors such as moderation style, platform design or community rules which influence the quality of online discussions. However, those proposals have had only very limited real-world impact, so far. There appears to be a gap between research on online discussions and the practical implementation in real world settings such as news websites, social media outlets or large-scale online consultations. The conference on ‘The Future of Online Discussions’ aims to bridge this gap.

Aim and Focus of the Conference

The key goal of the conference is to bring together researchers and practitioners in order to exchange ideas on how future online discussions should look like and by what means they should be supported. The conference aims to provide a platform where scientists and practitioners are committed to cooperate in order to promote change. The focus will be on both technical and non-technical means by which this can be achieved. Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • How should online discussions look like?
  • What are the main technical, legal and economic real-world constraints regarding online discussions?
  • By what technical and non-technical means can online discussions be improved?
  • What can be learned from real-world experiences with trying to improve online discussions?

We envisage that the topic of the conference is particular relevant to practitioners such as platform developers, media outlets or NGOs on the one hand, and scholars of Computer Science and Communication Science on the other hand. Practitioners are asked to give insight in the necessities, constraints and expectations which emerge in the context of their practical experience. We also welcome best case practice and innovations which are used by practitioners in the context of online discussions (e.g. automated word filters, moderation technics, community management etc.). The conference format is going to provide sufficient space for demo sessions and exchange for further collaboration.


The conference Programm starts Thursday, 12th March at 1.00 pm. Registration and opportunity for lunch will be from 12.00 am. There will be a conference dinner Thursday evening at the brewery Schuhmacher (Oststraße 123). The conference will end Friday, 13th around 6.00 pm. You can download a short and extended version of the latest program. The following speakers also confirmed to contribute to the conference topic:

  • What it Means to be a Good (online) Host – Community and User Engagement at ZEIT ONLINE
    Sebastian Horn (dep. Chief Editor ZEIT ONLINE; Project Manager My Country Talks) & Julia Meyer (Head of Community Management ZEIT ONLINE)
  • HETORiC – Reducing Hate with Editorial Tools for Online Reactions and Comments
    Michiel Nuytemans (Tree Company) & Steven Verlaak (Digital Lead at Mediahuis)
  • The Future of Comment Moderation: Challenges, potentials, requirements
    Christian Strippel (Researcher at NOHATE Project / FU Berlin)
  • Hate Speech, Law Enforcement and Civil Rights: The Struggle for a Cohesive
    Anna-Lena von Hodenberg (Managing Director at HateAid)
  • A Love-Hate Relationship: How People Feel About Online Discussions
    Gina M. Masullo (Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Centre of Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin)
  • How Civil Society Shapes the Future of Online Discussions – an Overview
    Hanna Gleiss (Project Manager at Das NETTZ – Networking Initiative Against Hate Speech)
  • Towards Crowd-Scale Pareto-Optimal Decision-Making
    Mark Klein (Principal Research Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT)
  • Argument Technology: Theory, Engineering & Deployment
    Chris Reed (Professor for Computer Science & Philosophy at the University of Dundee)
  • Why One-to-One Online Discussions are the Future of Online Discussions
    Sabine Mehnert (Project Manager at Diskutier Mit Mir / Discuss with Me)
  • A case for Persistency in Online Argumentation
    Martin Mauve (Professor for Computer Networks and Communication Systems at the University of Düsseldorf)
  • Parliaments, Court, Companies: Who Sets the Rules for Online Discussions (and Who Should)?
    Matthias C. Kettemann (Senior Researcher at Leibniz-Institute for Media Studies / Hans-Bredow-Institute)
  • Digital Democracy can be Hacked!
    Philip Kreißel (Social Media Analyst #ichbinhier):

There will be a poster- and demo session Friday noon where researchers from Düsseldorf present their recent scholarly work. Beside cake and coffee, the session will provide sufficient space for networking and further engagement with scholars and practitioner.

Venue and further Information

The conference is going to take place 12th–13th March 2020 in Düsseldorf/Germany at the House of the University. It is jointly organized by the NRW Forschungskolleg Online Participation and the Düsseldorf Institute for Internet and Democracy (DIID) at the University of Düsseldorf. Both institutions have a strong interdisciplinary focus on online participation research. For further questions please contact the Head of the organizing committee.


To register for the conference, please write a short email to which provides full name and affiliation (for the conference badge) as well as particular food preferences. Please also note whether you are planning to participate at the conference dinner Thursday night (please note that places for dinner are limited and participation cannot be guaranteed by late registration) . The registration is open until Wednesday, 4 March 2020. However, due to the limited number of seats, we may close the registration before this date. In any case, no conference fees will be charged.

Haus der Universität (Source: Medienlabor HHU)