During the 2010 UK general election, the first ever televised Prime Ministerial debates took place. KMi pilot research demonstrated the potential of mapping the debates as visual diagrams. In 2015 the next election is expected, providing the opportunity to investigate how knowledge media can deliver completely new ways to replay the debates and engage with the arguments at stake.
Funded by the EPSRC, this joint 3 year project has just kicked off jointly with University of Leeds (led by Stephen Coleman, Professor of Political Communication at the Institute of Communications Studies) will investigate the best approach to presenting complex arguments to citizens with a view to generating better informed public debate about political issues. The project team bring a unique combination of Information Science, Political Communication and Design (Leeds) with Computer-Supported Argumentation Visualization (KMi: Anna De Liddo and myself).
Leeds research showed that there was a significant public appetite for this means of learning about the candidates and their policies, but that many viewers were left feeling uncertain about the meaning of and relationship between the competing arguments they had witnessed.
Based on KMi’s real time mapping of the debates, and drawing inspiration from other projects that experimented with augmented TV replays, the project will develop a web application offering user interface visualizations of the debate replays, novel analytics on the argumentation, making the argument analysis available as open data for others to render or mash up in new ways. Extensive focus groups and user evaluations prior to, during and after the election will advance our understanding of how to make complex societal debates more accessible.
Watch this space for news in the coming months…