Argumentation in the virtual public sphere: between ideal models and actual practices 

Marcin Lewiński

May 2011 – April 2014 

The project focuses on various forms of Internet political discussions. Such popular discussions—which usually involve many (not just one or two) sides—have become an important yet little studied element of ‘the public sphere’, in which regular citizens deliberate about such crucial matters as elections or climate change.

The theoretical foundations of the research lie in the pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation (van Eemeren & Grootendorst 2004; van Eemeren 2010), the related approach known as “normative pragmatics” (Jackson 1998; Aakhus & Jackson 2005), and the theory of public deliberation (Dryzek 2000, 2010). The goal is threefold:  1) to critically assess the theories of argumentation in public deliberation in terms of their adequacy in dealing with many-to-many online argumentations; 2) to systematically analyse and contrast different protocols for online argumentation (discussion forums, blogs, decision-support systems) in order to test to what extent the hypothesis holds that the quality of arguments is significantly influenced by factors of contextual design; 3) to develop a design (protocol) for argumentation in many-to-many online deliberation that supports reasonable forms of argumentation and criticism.