Welcoming Argument Visualisation to Europe (WAVE)

Published on: 03/02/2010

The WAVE project aims at improving the inclusiveness and transparency of EU decision making at the national and European level by using highly integrated, state-of-the-art Argument Visualisation techniques to make the impact of complex EU environmental legislation on climate change more accessible and easy to understand for citizens, special interest groups and decision makers alike.In WAVE, an innovative argument visualisation platform will be deployed (Debategraph) in a cross border context. 

In this frame, 3 pilot projects  will be created in the UK, France and Lithuania, as well as a central debate pilot. WAVE will mainly target cross-border discussions on drafted and implemented legislation. These discussions will be facilitated on Debategraph so as to understand the impact of the proposed and implemented legislation.Uniquely, Debategraph will not only enable citizens and decision makers with differing points of view to more easily comprehend complex environmental debates; it will also empower them - through the use of a collaborative wiki - to work together in developing integrated feedback on legislation.WAVE will closely work with MEPs and MPs in order to ultimately join up with and inform at least three governments-the national governments of the three trial sites - UK, France and Lithuania. The climate change debate will be used to test the effectiveness of argument visualisation tools in helping citizens from a variety of demographics to better understand complex issues and evaluate the conditions under which these tools can bear an impact on the environment.

Policy Context

WAVE refers to EU and national legislation and policies on environmental issues and especially on climate change.

Description of target users and groups

WAVE refers to many different stakeholders:

  • individual citizens;
  • NGOs;
  • governments and administration;
  • academics;
  • business sector;

in general, anyone interested in climate change legislation and debates and in argument visualisation techniques.

Technology solution

The WAVE technical solution includes two kind of tools, the Debategraph tool and the WAVE platform; both are described below.

  • Argument Visualisation Software (Debategraph):

Debategraph is a multi-tiered web application that employs Microsoft ASP.NET 2.0 server technology, an SQL Server 2005 relational database and client-side scripting to provide the relevant functionality. Once the user has initially downloaded the relevant application page, all interactions with the web and database servers take place by AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript and XML) callbacks. As Debategraph is a browser-based web-application it operates across the Windows, Macintosh or Linux computer platforms using modern web browsers. The current fully supported browsers are Internet Explorer 6 & 7 (Windows only), Firefox 2 or later (Windows/ Mac/Linux) and Safari 3 or later (Windows/Mac) and the list will be extended in due course. The application is designed to support very large ‘debate maps’ and the creation of semantic linkages across individual map boundaries thereby creating a unified repository of debate in which relationships between as well
as within debates can be expressed. New material added to Debategraph is under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 licence.

  • WAVE Project Portal:

The WAVE project portal has been built with the use of the Joomla Content Management System (CMS).

Technology choice: Proprietary technology

Main results, benefits and impacts

WAVE project is still half way, and pilots have not been running for a long time, therefore it is still a little early to report benefits and impact. However, the first comments we are getting from users are positive and decision makers are interested into exploiting its potential.

Lessons learnt

As mentioned previously, it is probably too early to report on results and lessons learnt. However, our initial experience has already showed some initial lessons that we would like to share here:

  • Even internet experienced users  may find a little difficult to get used to an argument visualisation environment and logic. Clear and easy-to-follow instructions are needed on the homepage.
  • It is not easy for users to start developing maps on their own, therefore moderators have a crucial role to play in such an initiative. First they have to initially prepare issues and arguments to be there for users to contribute upon and second to expand users' own contributions to get them further involved.
Scope: Cross-border, Local (city or municipality), National, Pan-European