In online debates, as in offline ones, individual utterances or arguments support or attack each other, leading to some subset of arguments (potentially from different sides of the debate) being considered more relevant than others. However, online conversations are much larger in scale than offline ones, with often hundreds of thousands of users weighing in, collaboratively forming large trees of comments by starting from an original post and replying to each other. In large discussions, readers are often forced to sample a subset of the arguments being put forth. Since such sampling is rarely done in a principled manner, users may not read all the relevant arguments to get a full picture of the debate from a sample. This article is interested in answering the question of how users should sample online conversations to selectively favour the currently justified or accepted positions in the debate. We apply techniques from argumentation theory and complex networks to build a model that predicts the probabilities of the normatively justified arguments given their location in idealised online discussions of comments and replies, which we represent as trees. Our model shows that the proportion of replies that are supportive, the distribution of the number of replies that comments receive, and the locations of comments that do not receive replies (i.e., the “leaves” of the reply tree) all determine the probability that a comment is a justified argument given its location. We show that when the distribution of the number of replies is homogeneous along the tree length, for acrimonious discussions (with more attacking comments than supportive ones), the distribution of justified arguments depends on the parity of the tree level, which is the distance from the root expressed as number of edges. In supportive discussions, which have more supportive comments than attacks, the probability of having justified comments increases as one moves away from the root. For discussion trees that have a non-homogeneous in-degree distribution, for supportive discussions we observe the same behaviour as before, while for acrimonious discussions we cannot observe the same parity-based distribution. This is verified with data obtained from the online debating platform Kialo. By predicting the locations of the justified arguments in reply trees, we can therefore suggest which arguments readers should sample, to grasp the currently accepted opinions in such discussions. Our models have important implications for the design of future online debating platforms.

Who Has the Last Word? Understanding How to Sample Online Discussions / Boschi, Gioia; Young, Anthony P.; Joglekar, Sagar; Cammarota, Chiara; Sastry, Nishanth. - In: ACM TRANSACTIONS ON THE WEB. - ISSN 1559-1131. - 15:3(2021), pp. 1-25. [10.1145/3452936]

Who Has the Last Word? Understanding How to Sample Online Discussions

Cammarota, Chiara;
2021

Abstract

In online debates, as in offline ones, individual utterances or arguments support or attack each other, leading to some subset of arguments (potentially from different sides of the debate) being considered more relevant than others. However, online conversations are much larger in scale than offline ones, with often hundreds of thousands of users weighing in, collaboratively forming large trees of comments by starting from an original post and replying to each other. In large discussions, readers are often forced to sample a subset of the arguments being put forth. Since such sampling is rarely done in a principled manner, users may not read all the relevant arguments to get a full picture of the debate from a sample. This article is interested in answering the question of how users should sample online conversations to selectively favour the currently justified or accepted positions in the debate. We apply techniques from argumentation theory and complex networks to build a model that predicts the probabilities of the normatively justified arguments given their location in idealised online discussions of comments and replies, which we represent as trees. Our model shows that the proportion of replies that are supportive, the distribution of the number of replies that comments receive, and the locations of comments that do not receive replies (i.e., the “leaves” of the reply tree) all determine the probability that a comment is a justified argument given its location. We show that when the distribution of the number of replies is homogeneous along the tree length, for acrimonious discussions (with more attacking comments than supportive ones), the distribution of justified arguments depends on the parity of the tree level, which is the distance from the root expressed as number of edges. In supportive discussions, which have more supportive comments than attacks, the probability of having justified comments increases as one moves away from the root. For discussion trees that have a non-homogeneous in-degree distribution, for supportive discussions we observe the same behaviour as before, while for acrimonious discussions we cannot observe the same parity-based distribution. This is verified with data obtained from the online debating platform Kialo. By predicting the locations of the justified arguments in reply trees, we can therefore suggest which arguments readers should sample, to grasp the currently accepted opinions in such discussions. Our models have important implications for the design of future online debating platforms.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11573/1623220
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