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Fri, Jul 03, 2009

Dispute Finder - A tool from the Confrontational Computing Project at Intel

The Confrontational Computing Project is a collaboration between Intel Research and the University of California at Berkeley. The project grows from the assumption that much of the web is built around opinions, arguments and beliefs presented in blogs, wikis, discussion forums, news articles and other forums.

The project is interested in the following kinds of questions:
How do people use the web to help them form beliefs about the world? How do people promote their own opinions to others online? Can we build tools that make it easier for people to understand when and why other people hold opinions different to those that they read? Can we make it easier for people to assemble and promote arguments? Can we create a personalized web that understands what you know or believe already, and tailors the way information is presented accordingly?


The project has produced two tools, first Think Link and now its simpler-to-use but somewhat less powerful successor Dispute Finder. The Dispute Finder provides a browser-based tool (a Firefox Extension) that shows you when information you read is disputed, and helps you find and mark evidence for alternative points of view. Arguments, pro and con, may be voted on to help move certain saved snippets toward the top of the found items list.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand what it does is to watch the demonstration video.

Both tools are constructed with two general users in mind:
? Activists who care strongly about a particular issue and combine the tools with a search engine to find and mark snippets that make claims that they disagree with
? Sceptical Readers who install the tools as a browser extension to see when statements they read are disputed and find other sources that present alternative viewpoints.

It is interesting to consider the potential impact of these kind of tools on conflict processes. Will it encourage further polarization or will it enable more considered and reasoned arguments built around strong evidence instead of bluster or misdirection?

The code for the project is open source and an API is available so that the tools can be integrated with other applications in the future. More on the working details of the initiative can be found in this academic paper.


Posted by: Bill Warters on 2009 07 03 | Filed under Research Tools  

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