With the rise of the Internet, we now have a basic infrastructure which makes participation easier for everyone independent of space and time. Online participation offers many possibilities for users as well as operators, it has an impact on political and administrative decisions. Additionally, it has the potential to strengthen their acceptance and quality.
A central part of online discussion is the exchange of opinions among the participants. These exchanges can be very heated if the topics or opinions are controversial. In addition to this, online discussions enjoy an increasing popularity amongst citizens, especially when they are related to political talks. Thus discussions are getting larger and new challenges for the structure of the participant’s contributions arise. At the current state of the art, platforms for online discussions have a lack of structure, so that operators of these platforms lose the overview of the contributions, let alone the participants. This makes online participation processes even more difficult because the lack of structure gives rise to heated or ill-informed as well as polarized discussions. That is why we are improving the current technical solutions for online discussions and are proposing a novel approach to online discussions in the setting of online participation in this thesis.
The idea is to perform a time-shifted dialog between the participants. Any participant can take a position and put forward arguments. He or she is then confronted step by step with a selected argument of the other participants and can react to it (approval, rejection, counter argument, correction of the selected argument, etc.). These participants’ reactions then serve as a basis for the selection of arguments which the future participants are confronted with.
This idea was implemented in the web application D-BAS (Dialog-Based Argumentation System) and was developed by Tobias Krauthoff (computer science) and Christian Meter (computer science). The current software can be viewed and tested at https://dbas.cs.uni-duesseldorf.de.
In May 2017, D-BAS was tested and evaluated in a large-scale field experiment. The results can be viewed at https://dbas.cs.uni-duesseldorf.de/fieldexperiment.