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The collaborative dimensions of argument maps: A socio-visual approach

Sabrina Bresciani and Martin J. Eppler
From the journal Semiotica


This paper examines the collaborative use of visual argument maps in the context of argument production in organizations. Argument maps are highly multimodal, as their use involves the combination of diagrams, text elements, as well as spoken statements. In this theoretical piece, we apply a Collaborative Dimensions framework to argument maps that can be used to better design, understand, evaluate, and use argument maps in collaborative settings for decision making purposes. Specifically, our conceptual framework – derived from interdisciplinary perspectives – takes into consideration how the visual dimensions of argument maps have a bearing on the social interactions of people involved in a complex argumentation process. We posit that cognitive dimensions of argument maps need to be enriched with additional communicative and collaborative dimensions in order to foster a more widespread adoption of argument mapping in organizational decision making. In our socio-visual approach to argument mapping, we thus distinguish the following seven dimensions: Visual Insight, Outcome Clarity, Directed Focus, Perceived Finishedness, Visual Appeal, Content Modifiability, and Collaboration Support. We illustrate the use of the framework as an evaluation tool and analyze three different approaches to argument mapping with the help of the seven dimensions. In this way, the framework can be used to improve collaborative argument mapping. Our contribution thus lies in proposing an interdisciplinary and theoretically grounded set of factors to augment the quality of argument maps, both from a process and a results perspective. In this manner we hope to contribute to the theory of argumentation through the rich notion of “collaborative dimensions,” as well as further the practice of collaborative argument production through a more reflective and systematic use of interactive argument visualization.


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Published Online: 2017-11-07
Published in Print: 2018-01-26

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