Argumentation on the Social Web

Modelling dialectic and eristic argumentation

Tom Blount, David Millard and Mark Weal

Web and Internet Science, University of Southampton

Slides available at:

Creative Commons


  • Social media is a rich opportunity for large scale analysis of argument
  • Social argumentation differs from formal argumentation
  • How can we capture these different forms of argumentation?

Social Argumentation: What?

  • Dialectic vs. eristic
  • "Meta-Rhetoric"
  • Unusual features (image macros, etc.)

Social Argumentation: Why?

  • Trolling/abuse
  • Group-think/echo-chambers
  • Creating and maintaining vibrant online communities

Social Argumentation: How?

  • What structures do social arguments form?
  • How can we model these structures?


Argument Interchange Format
AIF Model


AIF+ Model


A more complex example
AIF+ Model


Semantically-Interlinked Online Communities
SIOC Model

Ad Hominem

  • "To the man"
  • Attack an opponents argument by undermining their credibility


Ad Hominem argument

Can be modelled as:

Ad Hominem attacking an I-Node


Ad Hominem attacking a U-Node

Or even:

Ad Hominem attacking a P-Node

Social Features

  • Upvotes/Downvotes
  • Favourites
  • Reposts/reblogs


Compare this...
Argument with many likes


...with this
Argument with many likes

Could map to...

Modelling total up/down votes with a "Rhetoric" Node
Modelling upvotes with Rhetoric Node


Modelling each up/down vote as a Locution
Modelling upvotes as Locutions


  • Social media is an excellent opportunity to analyse argumentation on a large scale
  • Argumentation is a social activity
  • Modelling this dimension of argumentation will allow us to make full use of the social web