ArgLab • Colloquium

Argumentation in Political Deliberation

International Colloquium

1. Strategic maneuvering in argumentative discourse in political deliberation

Frans H. van Eemeren (ILIAS and University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)



2. Strategic maneuvering in the European Parliament

Bart Garssen (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Commentary: Fabrizio Macagno



3. Pursuing multiple aims in European Parliamentary debates: debating EU immigration policies as a case in point

Dima Mohammed

Commentary: Scott Wright (University of East Anglia, UK)



4. Dealing with counterarguments in the public deliberations on the future promised by nanotechnologies

Marianne Doury and Assimakis Tseronis (Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Paris, France)

Commentary: Giovanni Damele



5. Deliberation Digitized: Governing argument in mediated society.

Mark Aakhus (Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA)



6. The development of online echo-chambers: the inclusion and exclusion of dissenting voices on online forums about public issues

Arthur Edwards (Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Commentary: Gabriele de Angelis


7. “Super participation” in online “Third Spaces”

ScottWright and Todd Graham (University of East Anglia, UK University of Groningen, The Netherlands)

Commentary: Marcin Lewiński



8. Debating multiple positions in multi-party online deliberation

Marcin Lewiński

Commentary: Marianne Doury (Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Paris, France)

Frans H. van Eemeren
Strategic maneuvering in argumentative discourse in political deliberation

Frans van Eemeren explains how to tackle the problems involved in analyzing and evaluating argumentative discourse in political deliberation from a pragma-dialectical perspective. After having first discussed the pragma-dialectical perspective on argumentative discourse he makes clear why incorporating a reconstruction of the the strategic maneuvering that takes place in argumentative discourse adds to the thoroughness and preciseness of its analysis and evalualuation. Next he concentrates on the specific problems involved in the analysis and evaluation of strategic maneuvering in argumentative discourse in the institutional context of political deliberation. In his discussion of these problems he focuses on the commonalities and differences between strategic maneuvering in political deliberation in different communicative activity types.

Dima Mohammed
Pursuing multiple aims in European Parliamentary debates: debating EU immigration policies as a case in point

In this paper, I aim to shed light on the multi-purposive nature of debates in the European Parliament. In these debates, Members of European Parliament (MEPs) pursue several institutional aims (further national interests, negotiate a European identity, promote political groups agendas, hold the EU executive bodies to account for their performance, etc.). In particular, I examine the debate on immigration in the wake of the exceptional migratory flows from North Africa early this year. By analysing the different points of view argued for by MEPs in their contributions to this debate, I aim at identifying the different aims that are typically pursued by MEPs in such debates and the ways in which argumentation is employed in this pursuit.

Marianne Doury & Assimakis Tseronis
Dealing with counterarguments in the public deliberations on the future promised by nanotechnologies

In this paper, we examine two methods of public participation, namely consensus conference (conférence de citoyens) and public hearing (débat public), that have been applied in France on the deliberation over the issue of the development and applications of nanotechnology. While both methods come under the deliberative genre of communication, they differ in a number of aspects, such as the status and role of the participants involved, the time scale and the duration as well as the mode of communication. Our aim is to look at the ways in which the procedural properties of these two methods of public participation affect the expression and the evaluation of counter-arguments.

Mark Aakhus
Deliberation Digitized: Governing argument in mediated society

This paper discusses the problem of argumentative governance in deliberation.


Deliberative activity involves advancing and responding to positions taken up by participants but it also involves responsibility for how the direction of argumentation is managed and thus the content and outcomes of deliberation. This has not been a focal concern of much contemporary argumentation theory, which has tended to focus on the reasonableness of messages and the correctness of inferences about messages while leaving unaddressed the pragmatic problems of argumentative governance.


To address this, this paper examines deliberative practice by taking stock of online deliberation. It first considers some key matters facing interlocutors in managing the content and process of online deliberation. This reveals the problem of looking at online deliberation without considering the technological context. It then considers how the digitization of communication and information has fostered the proliferation of communication-information services for deliberation. When seen as solutions to the differing aspects of the problem of argumentative governance, then it is possible to see new ways in which argumentation can be analyzed that can advance understanding of deliberation in the mediated society.

Arthur Edwards
The development of online echo-chambers: the inclusion and exclusion of dissenting voices on online forums about public issues

According to the deliberative theory of democracy public deliberation is aimed at the transformation of privately held preferences and opinions into positions that can withstand public scrutiny and criticism. This assumes the availability of public fora on which individuals with different points of view participate in argumentative discussions. Several studies have highlighted that the fragmentation of the online domain results in the emergence of ‘echo chambers’ which tend to amplify pre-existing views and to exclude dissenting voices (Sunstein, 2001).


In this paper we look at the processes by which an online forum may develop into such a homogeneous community. Which processes of inclusion and exclusion take place and how? How do these processes manifest themselves in verbal communication between participants? How are community managers involved in this? We look at the Dutch skeptical website that was established in November 2009 after the hack of emails of climate scientists of the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East-Anglia.

ScottWright & Todd Graham
"Super participation" in online "Third Spaces"

This paper takes forward a new agenda for online deliberation research: the study of everyday political talk in non-political, online “third spaces” (Wright, forthcoming; Graham, 2011). Conducting research in third spaces raises difficult methodological questions. This paper uses an innovative, multi-method approach (Wright, UR) to overcome these issues. Moreover, it will focus on “super-participants” (SPs): most studies of deliberation online have found dominant minorities. Surprisingly no detailed analysis of their behavior has been undertaken.


This paper develops a typology of participation to categorize users. For example, SPs are defined as users who have made 2000+ posts, created more than 5% of messages, or started more than 5% of new threads. The paper focuses on one “third space”,, and explores two principal research questions:


1) What is the volume and nature of participation?

2) What motivates and drives SPs?


First, a screen-scraping script will be used to collect and analyze posting patterns across the whole forum. This is adapted from Wright’s (2006) previous groundbreaking study that used live screen scraping to analyze (post) moderation practices on the Downing Street forum. Second, thirty SPs will be randomly selected for a hand-coded content analysis of their postings, which will determine whether they attempt to dominate or facilitate discussions, and how they discuss. Regarding the latter, the analysis will focus on the deliberativeness of SPs’ participation. In addition to examining the levels of rationality, critical reflection, and use of supporting evidence, the coding scheme will pay particular attention to several key dispositional and social conditions of deliberation (e.g. reciprocity, reflexivity, and discursive equality). Finally, interviews will be conducted with SPs to explore how they perceive their posting behavior and why they participate. To summarize, the paper will make several contributions to the field. It will: provide the first detailed analysis of SPs; extend the new third space research agenda; and break new methodological ground.

Marcin Lewiński
Debating multiple positions in multi-party online deliberation

Dialectical approaches traditionally conceptualize argumentation as a discussion in which two parties debate on “two sides of an issue” (pro and con). However, many political issues engender multiple positions. This is clear in multi-party online deliberations in which often an array of competing positions is debated in one and the same discussion. A proponent of a given position thus addresses a number of possible opponents, who in turn may hold incompatible opinions. The goal of this paper is to shed extra light on such “polylogical” clash of opinions in online deliberation, by examining the multi-layered participation in such discussions and analyzing the formulation and development of multiple positions in actual online debates. The examples will be drawn from the readers’ discussions on Osama bin-Laden’s killing in two online versions of British newspapers: Guardian and The Telegraph.