Debating multiple positions in multi-party online deliberation: Sides, positions, and cases

Journal of Argumentation in Context 2 (1):151-177 (2013)
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Dialectical approaches traditionally conceptualize argumentation as a discussion in which two parties debate on “two sides of an issue”. 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 actual online debates. The examples are drawn from the readers’ discussions on Osama bin Laden’s killing in online versions of two British newspapers: The Guardian and The Telegraph. As a result of the analysis, a distinction between sides, positions, and cases in argumentative deliberation is proposed.



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