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Providing Argument Support for E-Participation

As governments seek to consult their citizens over matters of policy, it becomes increasingly important for citizens to receive relevant information in a medium that they can use, and will want to use, in forming their opinion upon consultative issues. In e-participation, there is a clear requirement to understand how technology can support informed debate on issues, but there are two main obstacles in achieving this. The first is that the deliberation is often on complex issues, and therefore typically there are many arguments and counter arguments to consider, which, when presented in linear text, can be confusing for the public at large. Second, it is not obvious that many people actually have the necessary critical thinking skills to deliberate on issues. Argumentation systems have been used successfully in the domains of law and education, where they have been developed in response to a need for innovative and effective ways of teaching critical thinking, presenting and defending a point of view, and providing complex information in an organized and easily accessible fashion. Their use in the political domain is only just emerging. The purpose of this article is to make clear how e-participation can gain from the use of argumentation systems.