Application Scenario

Suppose, for the sake of illustration, the issue is whether or how the banking industry should be regulated in Europe. This is an issue which is already being widely discussed in newspapers, journals, websites, discussion forums, wikis and weblogs. Most of these sources are available in digital form on the Internet. 

Suppose that an organization, such as a political party, nongovernmental organization (NGO) or governmental agency, perhaps the European Commission, would like to improve the inclusiveness, transparency, efficiency and quality of this policy debate and is interested in using the IMPACT toolbox to help achieve these goals.  The figure below shows the main uses cases supported by the toolbox. 

The argument reconstruction tool can be used by the organization to identify and model the stakeholders, issues, policy alternatives and arguments about these policies, extracting this information from existing articles on the web about the banking crisis and discussions about possible regulatory measures to avoid these problems in the future. The “reconstruct arguments” use case uses the “web publishing” use case by searching the web for arguments in published documents, for example in discussion forums, blogs or social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace.

The organization can then formulate its proposed policy and prepare a green paper stating this policy and its justification, as arguments pro and con this policy and the alternative policies considered, for use in an online consultation with stakeholders, called the public above, to obtain comments and other feedback.  The organization can publish announcements about the online consultation process, inviting all interested persons, including representatives of the stakeholders, to register to actively participate in the process, or to passively follow the process by subscribing to news feeds published on a web site set up by the organization for the consultation. 

The policy modeling tool can be used by a policy analyst to construct a model of the alternative policies, together with the arguments pro and con each policy, which have been considered in the green paper. The policy modeling tool includes an inference engine which enables the public, in an interactive and visual way, to analyze the legal effects of each policy on the facts of particular cases. The models could be published on a web site, allowing the public to evaluate the effects of each policy on the cases which interest them. The organization could publish benchmark cases they think require special consideration. The public can be offered the opportunity to submit further actual or hypothetical cases, including the facts of their own cases, but anonymized to protect privacy.  

The argument analysis, tracking and visualization tool can be used to provide various views of the effects of polices on cases, including aggregated views of the results of each alternative policy on collections of benchmark cases. The tracking feature of this tool generates news feeds to enable the public  to keep informed as the consultation proceeds.  The argument analysis, tracking and visualization tool provides a quick overview of the issues and arguments, without having to read individual messages or filter out spam or other irrelevant, inflammatory, emotional, irrational or otherwise non-constructive contributions.   The tool allows the public to focus on substantive issues without the usual noise and rhetoric of party politics.

The structured consultation tool can be used by the organization to apply rational patterns of argument, called "argumentation schemes", to generate specific questions which can be distributed as a survey to the public, to the devices of their choice. The feedback from this structured consultation process would be automatically processed by the tool to update the models of the policies and arguments about these policies, reducing if not eliminating the need to manually interpret messages, or to filter out spam or other kinds of noise. This policy model would be continuously republished as it is updated, with announcements of important updates posted to a news feed. 

Contributions could be proactively solicited by the organization on issues which they feel have not been sufficiently addressed. Focus groups could be organized to collaborate more intensively on some issues, such as technical issues requiring expertise in some field. The argument visualization tool could be used to create views onto the model of arguments for particular audiences and purposes, as the need arises. 

The cyclic process of generating questions, distributing surveys and using the feedback to update the argument and policy models and their visualizations can continue for the period of time allotted to the consultation process by the organization.  The final version of the policy model can be used by the organization as an outline for producing a white paper which can be published to the public and forwarded to the public authority responsible for deciding policy issues and making legislation. 

The IMPACT toolbox will be designed so as to facilitate the protection of privacy in compliance with data protection laws.