The AGORA approach is innovative in five dimensions:
- AGORA focuses on deliberation in the form of interactively constructing large-scale argumentations for or against positions or claims. The development of argumentations will be performed either collaboratively or adversarially, on the web and open to everybody worldwide who is interested. Focusing on argumentations will deepen mutual understanding between conflicting camps, and it will stimulate critical reflections on one’s own positions. The goal is cognitive change and to promote new thinking. This goes far beyond of traditional blogs and wikis which are characterized by endless summations of ideas, comments, and repetitions of always the same opinions.
- AGORA represents those argumentations graphically, not linearly, so that the central claim, the structure, controversial points, open ends, and the status of complex debates are immediately visible. The goal is to represent the structure of knowledge and webs of beliefs, not isolated statements.
- AGORA’s user interface–and this distinguishes our approach from graphical tools like debategraph, cohere, GlobalArgument.net, bCisive, etc.–structures the construction of arguments in a way that stimulates reflection and motivates the permanent improvement of one’s arguments before they are published;
- AGORA–in contrast to systems such as the MIT Deliberatorium–is self-sustaining, that is it works solely based on user input without needing external moderators who do the structuring and provide feedback to improve and direct debates.
- The essential feature that distinguishes the AGORA approach from all other software tools available for facilitating online debates is the fact that it guides the user to represent his or her main argument–and every sub-argument that might be controversial–as a deductively valid argument, that is as an argument whose conclusion is necessarily true if all the premises are true. The reason for this design decision is explained on the page “What you should know before you start.”