To map arguments is to spell out what different sides have to say about an issue, and how their arguments relate to each other. Ideally, all major arguments on that issue should be included, and should be presented simply and honestly.

Contrast with :

Mapping Arguments is only worthwhile when a DeepDisagreement is present, when the disagreement between parties won’t be solved by a bit of discussion. This is about mapping a disagreement, not a misunderstanding or a difference in knowledge.

Also, this is not about getting someone to change their mind, but rather to AgreeToDisagree and spell out differences. It’s about placing yourself on the general map of ideas.

Visual Argument Maps

The word “mapping” suggests “maps,” as in maps of places you carry around with you and look up gas stations on.

While we do talk about VisualLanguage maps on this page, you can map out an argument on, say, a wiki page, as well.

A WikiDramaForDebate is an attempt to map the narrative of an argument as a play. DoubleWiki is another way.

But, we believe that visual representations of arguments have some unique advantages. See ArgumentMap for that.

A more formal frame

Generally, mapping an argument is making it more formal in some way. That can include :

Two advantages :

Contribution from all sides

Getting cooperation from different sides is good, because :

Robert Horn’s way of putting everyone on the map was to read through the literature and integrate the main ideas. However, where you can find people loudly advocating anything, maybe you can get them to do the grunt work.

Dissasociating people from ideas

This topic has been extensively researched in academia.

One interesting issue is that it’s considered rather important to disassociate people from their opinions when constructing the map, so that :

In other words, ideas should be the main players. This helps avoid some all-too-common fallacies, especially Wiki:ArgumentFromAuthority, Wiki:AdHominem, Wiki:ArgumentByTheMasses, etc.


“People often resist having to make their reasoning explicit (for all sorts of reasons, but one being that it’s just plain hard cognitively). How can we devise representations and user interfaces that make this easier?”

See Also


OK, new page. I integrated ideas from pieces of the discussion.

Woohoo, found a lot of interesting links !

Hmm, it seems that most people consider that argument mapping is necessarily visual. So if DoubleWikiForDebate? and DoubleWiki aren’t about mapping arguments, what are they about ?

So, as far as I can tell, this topic has already been well explored. What still needs to be done :

  • Clarifying the difference between “mapping an argument” (not necessarily visually) as opposed to just arguing and visual argument maps (this page talks about both, maybe it could be split)
  • Trying to rattach this to online discourse, the way it actually is done - is it possible to get people (people who are more interested in what’s being argued than the meta-stuff, argument mapping and the like) to actually use this stuff ?


I am sure that every idea we have talked about on CW has already been explored. What’s at issue here is the ability to access these things, the ability to access these thinkers, the ability to clarify concepts, participate in conversation, etc., etc., etc.,.

So, I wouldn’t say that “we’re not interested in talking about that.”

When I look at the mountain of links, I go, “Oh-my-god, there’s so much here…” I would be interested in a guided tour of the ideas, no? So, there is a lot to talk about in that direction.

Of those ideas, I suspect only a few are valuable to us. There is evaluation, discrimination, rewording, to be done.

[GuidedTourOfOurIdeas? Guided tour of the ideas on community-wiki], or maybe community-wiki in 15 minutes, something like that. Sounds good. Linked to on the frontpage and on the wiki-node for people coming along and taking a look here (and for us to understand who we are). Such a page on every wiki ideas are cooking on and we are getting closer to the hive-mind. Let’s try that. I’m pretty sure doing so some ideas would come to my view that I’m not aware of at all - and I might also rediscover ideas that I had written on here but forgot about already. These can’t have been important if you forgot about them, you say? Maybe? Dunno.

I moved ArgumentMap off this page. I’m not that happy with the names - ArgumentGraph? or VisualArgumentMap? may have been better. But I feel it makes this page a bit less schizopherenic (ArgumentMap is a big topic !).

I’m so happy! I love these pages!

Wasn’t there a page like… StructureConsideredHarmful?? Didn’t someone publish some paper with a name like that? It seems worth linking to from the “cons” section. I don’t remember the basic ideas, off the top of my head.

I’m not sure if you guys know about this, but since it doesn’t seem to be mentioned here I thought I might bring it up. The whole idea of mapping arguments is actually an entire subfield of research in academia in its own right, with names like hypermedia discourse, dialog mapping, concept mapping, argumentation mapping, etc. One of my Ph.D. advisors, Simon Buckingham-Shum, just happens to be a specialist. There’s an open source software package for argumentation mapping called Compendium, which was originally developed by some other researchers in the field but is now being further developed at KMi. Compendium allows a facilitator to graphically map out an occurring discussion so that it can be visualized and used as an artifact for further organization and planning. One thing to note (as I learned from one of the prime practitioners in the field, Jeff Conklin) is that it’s actually considered rather important within Concept Mapping to disassociate people from their opinions when constructing the map, in order to minimize the emotional attachment of a speaker and their ideas, both from their perspective and their listeners’, so that it becomes possible for people to like an idea of someone that they personally might dislike, or obtain some critical distance for the ideas of someone that they do like, i.e., to objectify the discussion so that personal attachments play less a role than the ideas themselves.

I’m not sure if this is exactly what you had in mind, but I thought it might be an angle you might want to investigate. There’s a lot of work, probably more than a decade of research, conferences, etc. to plumb for ideas…

Neat !

I integrated the bit on seperating people from their ideas into the text (feel free to add more !).

I wish there was more awareness and use of this in public forums ! Even if this has been researched for 10 years, it seems that the discussion culture of the internet has evolved without any influence from academic discourse on argumentation mapping …

When I discover some forum dedicated to some topic (especially religious or political topics), I often suspect it is biased.

If it has already reached consensus (which differs from my pet opinions), it’s clearly biased. If it is still waffling over some subject, instead of admitting that I am right, it’s clearly biased. </tongue-in-cheek>

I suspect that at least some of the writers are using ThePowerOfQuestions to try to get their own way, rather than honestly wanting to know the answers. I see some people at Wikipedia are even more suspicious than I am.

  • How can people accurately measure the amount and direction of bias?
  • How can a person set up a “fair” discussion area/ wiki/ discussion forum, without his own biases coloring everything?
  • How can a person set up a “fair” discussion area such that the majority doesn’t drown out the minority?

I hope that MappingArguments will lead to good answers to these questions.

From my experiences on the Foresight Exchange, I’ve discovered that even people who honestly want the answer to some question often have difficulty expressing that question. All too often, the technically “true” answer to the question (as written) is not exactly what that person really wanted. (At least, that’s happened to me).

Once you’ve finished mapping the entire argument, is the result an ArgumentPyramid?

I don’t think so- the idea of the argument pyramid, is to feel the “underneath” behind your argument. Your argument relies on several other arguments which rely on still other arguments.

Now, when you map an argument with someone, this is a 2-person (or N-person) game. The expressions that come out come from the challenges that are issued.

If I have an argument, I may have 1,000 parts to it (at least) in the ArgumentPyramid. If you challenge me on 3 parts, then that’s what’s going to appear in our map of the argument. But the remaining 997 parts are going to go unmapped.

In our arguments, we rely on literally countless arguments that go unspoken.

When we persuade someone, we frequently do it by references to the unspoken arguments that are already agreed upon. The point is to introduce cognitive dissonance, so that the person sees that: In order to believe X, they will have to believe Y, which contradicts Z,which “everyone knows is true.” So they should not believe X, and instead, believe X’.

If you mapped an “entire” argument with someone, you’re going to miss the things that you mutually agreed on, automatically. Further, if you didn’t come to agreement, then there is no “point” to the pyramid; there’s just a web of disagreements “at top.”

I think the story of the ArgumentPyramid is really different than the story of MappingArguments. The pyramid is a player in the story of the argument map, but it’s not the same thing, or even the product. Not in my mind, at least.

Define external redirect: GuidedTourOfOurIdeas ArgumentGraph DoubleWikiForDebate StructureConsideredHarmful VisualArgumentMap

EditNearLinks: AgreeToDisagree DoubleWiki