Argument and debate form cornerstones of civilized society and of intellectual life. As online interaction usurps many traditional forms of interaction and communication, we would hope to see these processes alive and well on the web. But we do not. In spite of the ever-growing volume of online interaction, its current mechanisms hamper and discourage serious debate; they facilitate poor quality argument; and they allow fuzzy thinking to go unchecked. Meanwhile, these same online resources are increasingly being trusted and adopted with little critical reflection. The problem needs to be addressed from two different but converging perspectives:
- We need better understanding and widespread awareness in the use of current and future ICT, to enable people to profit from new opportunities for argumentative interaction, instead of being mislead and thwarted by lack of familiarity with the emerging socio-technical systems. Several research areas are critical to this purpose, but their contributions need to be integrated in a concerted effort: among others, philosophy of information, critical thinking, digital literacy, e-inclusion, persuasive technologies, CMC.
- We need new tools, new systems and new standards engineered into the heart of the internet to encourage debate, to facilitate good argument, and to promote a new online critical literacy. This is the vision of the Argument Web, a web platform that brings together different domains and interaction styles (e.g. argument analysis, real-time debate, blogging) by combining linked argument data with software tools that make online debate intuitive for various audiences, including mediators, students, academics, broadcasters and bloggers.