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A pervasive aspect of human communication and sociality is argumentation: the practice of making and criticizing reasons in the context of doubt and disagreement. Argumentation underpins and shapes the decision-making, problem-solving, and conflict management which are fundamental to human relationships. However, argumentation is predominantly conceptualized as two parties arguing pro and con positions with each other in one place. This dyadic bias undermines the capacity to engage argumentation in complex communication in contemporary, digital society. This book offers an ambitious alternative course of inquiry for the analysis, evaluation, and design of argumentation as polylogue: various players arguing over many positions across multiple places. Taking up key aspects of the twentieth-century revival of argumentation as a communicative, situated practice, the polylogue framework engages a wider range of discourses, messages, interactions, technologies, and institutions necessary for adequately engaging the contemporary entanglement of argumentation and complex communication in human activities.
This chapter recasts prescription in terms of design. Prescription has been of long-standing interest in logic, rhetoric, and dialectic. However, prescription is often narrowly cast such that it misses how context for argumentation is deliberately constructed. It is argued here that there can be design for argumentative polylogue that is more deliberate than the routine inventiveness evident in ordinary communication. This design work is not simply about particular inventions-for and discoveries-about positions, players, and places for argument but about assembling polylogues to produce particular argumentative discourse. Social media platforms are critically engaged to explore this point and to consider more generally the practical design theorizing involved in constructing argumentative polylogues. Argumentative design is shown to be best understood as an architectonic productive art for producing argumentative discourse that experiments with what is possible, plausible, probable, and preferable for disagreement management. It is work that is organized by a fundamental design question: what disagreement(s) to have (if any)? To further understand the designability of polylogical interaction for argumentative conduct, and the contestability of its design, additional contemporary cases in policy, deliberative democracy, and critical infrastructures are used to articulate communicative imagination, design languages, and critical thinking for polylogical argumentative design.
This chapter formulates the basic problem addressed in this book: how to understand the complexity of argumentation, that is, how argument and communication are entangled in human activity. Polylogue is introduced as a simple yet perspicuous term for renewing and advancing inquiry of argumentation in complex communication. The fact that polylogue cannot be dismissed is evident in examples of managing disagreement under polylogical conditions both contemporary (e.g., social media platforms) and historical (e.g., establishing congressional representation for the newly formed US republic). While recognized in practice, however, polylogue is theoretically dismissed by an analytic strategy of dyadic reduction prominent across time in the study of argumentation and communication. Even the remarkable theoretical and methodological contributions of the twentieth-century revival of the study of argumentation as a communicative, situated practice, do not yet make a polylogical turn for understanding argumentation due to lingering commitments to a paradigmatic norm of dyadic interaction. However, much broader considerations of how argument happens stimulated by this revival provide starting points for a polylogical alternative.
This chapter exposes the received dyadic model of communication and then critically analyzes the presumptions of the model. This reductive model, which views communication as evolving from a basic unit of face-to-face dialogue between two people, has dominated understanding of communication from ancient dialectic to today’s speech act theory, conversation analysis, and argumentation theory – the disciplines discussed in the chapter. While the dyadic reduction has a long, important history in theorizing argumentation and communication – a history that is briefly recounted, going back to the dialectical roots of argumentation theory – the principle of reduction becomes unjustified reductionism that bypasses polylogical realities of argumentation and communication.
This chapter presents three descriptive analyses of polylogue that draw on three different types of text. Each text – corporate advertorial, news account, and editorial – concerns argumentation about energy production and environmental protection. Using a corporate advertorial previously analyzed by other argumentation scholars, the first polylogical analysis explains key analytic costs born from the practice of making dyadic reductions when reconstructing and analyzing argumentation. The second illustrates the reconstruction of a controversy from a news story that produces a macroscopic representation of the polylogical disagreement management to describe the argumentative relations among players, positions, and places. The third articulates the argumentative strategy of an editorial to manage the polylogical circumstances of its production while offering a novel interpretation about how the strategy seeks to redesign the very polylogue that gave rise to the editorial. These polylogical reconstructions and analyses of argumentation show how to account for the argumentative organization of positions, players, and places involved in the complex practices of disagreement management.
This chapter adopts one simple yet crucial principle of rationality – the contextually adequate contrast of reasons – as an important path for the normative evaluation of polylogue. This principle is consistent with the basic polylogical idea that arguing for a position is always arguing against other incompatible positions. The key normative obligation of any arguer is thus that of defending the contrastive bestness of the position advanced. The basic principle of contrastive reason can be contextually determined relative to the constraints and affordances of place for argumentation. As such, the principle is translatable into a normative condition from which to evaluate argumentation in complex communication: make a relevant expansion of a disagreement space. It is then demonstrated how this approach explains the false dilemma as a polylogical fallacy that neither logical nor dialectical approaches can adequately handle. The usefulness of this approach for evaluating the role of place in the management of disagreement in polylogue is also illustrated. Finally, the chapter discusses the intriguing and often paradoxical relations between individual and collective rationality that polylogue framework foregrounds, in contrast to most extant normative approaches in argumentation theory.
This chapter investigates how scholars have previously challenged dyadic reductions and directly or indirectly embraced polylogue – often simply called “multiparty conversation” – as an alternative ontology for communication. The chapter is divided into two basic parts. First, the varied understandings of polylogue produced in the literature are discussed. This review reveals some key limitations of the extant literature on polylogues and clarifies terminological confusions. Second, drawing from a variety of relevant literature a nonexhaustive but compelling list of eleven polylogical facts instrumental to understanding what is at stake when people engage in polylogues is presented. These polylogical facts extend the framework by demonstrating both what is reduced in dyadic reductions of argumentation while the complex communicative phenomena that are at stake when people engage in polylogues.
This chapter develops the crucial starting points for an inquiry into argumentation as polylogue. A framework is advanced that foregrounds polylogue as the natural state of affairs for argumentation. The framework elaborates how argument is embedded in communication and communication in activity, how argumentation is for communication, and how argumentation is a source of communicative innovation for polylogue. This profoundly social view of argumentation grounds the idea that polylogues are disagreement management practices in which various players pursue their contrasting positions across multiple places. A polylogue framework offers a new social ontology of argument in complex communication that fundamentally shifts descriptive, normative, and prescriptive attention to how contexts for argumentation are made via interaction and how argument is implicated in broader chains of social action and cognition. The polylogue framework thus scaffolds the discovery, analysis, and design of argumentative structures and functions for a much wider range of discourses, messages, interactions, technologies, and institutions.
Stopping at a Princeton, New Jersey, construction site, we half-consciously summarized the communicational situation. Before quite realizing it, we found in that buzzing, blooming confusion we could readily spot the person in charge. He was a man in his late 40s nestling a mobile phone in his meaty fist. The mobile phone was not what tipped us off – most workers at the site had cell telephones or pagers dangling from their belts. The boss carried his in his hand, its stubby antenna poking forward like an extra digit.
What you wear, and how you wear it, is a powerful form of communication. In this case, the boss's unconscious positioning of his communication device relative to his body was wonderfully indicative of his status and power. By otherwise occupying his hand with a mobile phone, he showed he had no intention of picking up a tool or performing manual labor. He used the phone's abbreviated antenna to point and gesture, in the manner of a nineteenth-century English army officer using his riding crop to dictate who needed to go where and do what.
The boss was also presumably more likely than his workers to be receiving a phone call, and thus needed to have his phone at the ready; the others, requiring it less often, could make do with a fumbling recovery from their belts. By having his telephone so primed for action, the boss could summon whatever manpower, materiel or expertise the project might require.
With the invention of the telephone in 1876, it was possible for the first time in history to have real-time conversational interaction at a distance. Back then, the technology was astounding. Early demonstrations of its capability attracted large crowds, most of whom were awe-struck, though some thought it mere legerdemain. By contrast, in the twenty-first century the telephone has for a billion people become, literally, a fixture of everyday life. Only by its absence do we deem it worthy of comment (such as in school classrooms and prisons or in poor countries). The miracle of telephone conversation is too readily forgotten by laypeople and scholars alike. However, the telephone's becoming mobile has re-familiarized many people with the amazement felt by its early witnesses. The exquisite value of the telephone can best be appreciated if one considers the plight of a villager who wants to know if there might be work available in a nearby town, or who needs to summon aid for a sick family member.
Over the years, the telephone has dramatically changed how people live their lives and see their world. Another change of perhaps similar magnitude is in the offing with the mobilization not only of speech but also of a novel array of computer-supported communication and social interaction. Bursty chip-to-chip chats will arrange everything from grocery deliveries to a blind date between two co-located individuals of matching interest profiles. But even today's powers of the mobile phone are extraordinary.