Making sense of disagreement: structuring online debates to support sense-making

Jodi Schneider - Postdoctoral Fellow at INRIA
Multimedia Communications

Date: -
Location: Eurecom

Groups increasingly collaborate at a distance to produce software, standards, and reference works such as the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Decisions in these groups are made through open online discussions, based on the written arguments and opinions that individuals contribute. Reaching agreement in written discussions can be difficult because individuals may disagree in their arguments and opinions. When large volumes of opinions and arguments are expressed, popular or emotive choices can be identified through coarse approaches such as sampling, sentiment, or voting. But these do not identify the reasons for disagreement which may be needed in order to reach decisions. For example, about 500 discussions each week in Wikipedia concern whether a particular topic should be deleted from the encyclopedia. Discussions may involve comments from 2-200 people, and some topics are contentious. We present a new method for supporting online sense-making and apply it to deletion discussions in Wikipedia. We emphasize the structure of arguments by providing a new, reconfigurable Web interface. Our interface improves the perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and information completeness, thus providing meaningful support for these discussions.