Oxford Internet Institute

My attention was drawn to the Oxford Internet Institute:

The Oxford Internet Institute was founded in 2001 at the University of Oxford, as an academic centre for the study of the societal implications of the Internet.
In the last forty years the Internet has grown from an arcane and specialized academic service to the sophisticated global network of networks we see today: during this period the complexity of its societal implications has become ever more obvious, as well as the many ways it shapes our lives. Grounded in a determination to measure, understand and explain the Internet’s multi-faceted interactions and effects, our research projects bring together some of the best international scholars within a multi-disciplinary department in one of the world’s top research universities. We are committed to being an informed, independent and nonpartisan source of the highest quality analysis and insight in all our research and policy-related activities.

The institute recently organised a conference on Internet, Politics, Policy 2012: Big Data, Big Challenges, where there were some papers bearing on policy-making. These are topics closely related to research that I do. An organisation worth following in the future.

Dead Cert – BBC Podcast about Uncertainty in Public Discourse

BBC Radio 4 has a 30 minute radio show about uncertainty in public discourse. Several of the points were well made and relevant to key lines of research that I do (argumentation, policy-making), so I thought it worthwhile to give a link here.
The main questions that caught my attention were:

  • How do we (public, experts, and politicians) make public decisions where there is uncertainty?
  • How are problems and proposals presented by different organisations (politicians, experts, and journalists)?

All the content below is from the BBC. The link below should take you to the BBC site and start the presentation. However, there might be some restrictions on access from outside the UK.
– Adam
Certainty: is the lust for it a sin? And if so, should politics fear for its soul? Michael Blastland makes a plea for policy makers to be less sure of themselves in “Dead Cert”, originally broadcast on 6 November 2008.

Papers at ITBAM 2012, ePart 2012, and EKAW 2012

Recent papers at various conferences. One is in the 3rd International Conference on Information Technology in Bio- and Medical Informatics (ITBAM 2012), Vienna, Austria. Another is in the 4th International Conference on eParticipation (ePart 2012), Kristainsand, Norway. And a final paper is in the 18th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management, Galway, Ireland.
Argumentation to represent and reason over biological systems
Adam Wyner, Luke Riley, Robert Hoehndorf, and Samuel Croset.
In systems biology, networks represent components of biological systems and their interactions. It is a challenge to efficiently represent, integrate and analyse the wealth of information that is now being created in biology, where issues concerning consistency arise. As well, the information offers novel methods to explain and explore biological phenomena. To represent and reason with inconsistency as well as provide explanation, we represent a fragment of a biological system and its interactions in terms of a computational model of argument and argumentation schemes. Process pathways are represented in terms of an argumentation scheme, then abstracted into a computational model for evaluation, yielding sets of ‘consistent’ arguments that represent compatible biological processes. From the arguments, we can extract the corresponding processes. We show how the analysis supports explanation and systematic exploration in a biology network.
author = {Adam Wyner and Riley, Luke and Robert Hoehndorf and Samuel Croset},
title = {Argumentation to Represent and Reason over Biological Systems},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Information Technology in Bio- and Medical Informatics ({ITBAM} 2012)},
year = {2012},
note = {To appear},
Model based critique of policy proposals
Adam Wyner, Katie Atkinson, and Trevor Bench-Capon
Citizens may engage with policy issues both to critique official justifications, and to make their own proposals and receive reasons why they are not favoured. Either direction of use can be supported by argumentation schemes based on formal models, which can be used to verify and generate arguments, assimilate objections etc. Previously we have explored the citizen critiqing a justification using an argumentation scheme based on Alternating Action-based Transition Systems. We now present a system which uses the same model to critique proposals from citizens. A prototype has been implemented in Prolog and we illustrate the ideas with code fragments and a running example.
author = {Adam Wyner and Atkinson, Katie and Trevor Bench-Capon},
title = {Model Based Critique of Policy Proposals},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on e{P}articipation (e{P}art 2012)},
year = {2012},
note = {To appear},
Dimensions of argumentation in social media
Jodi Schneider, Brian Davis, and Adam Wyner
Mining social media for opinions is important to governments and businesses. Current approaches focus on sentiment and opinion detection. Yet, people also justify their views, giving arguments. Understanding arguments in social media would yield richer knowledge about the views of individuals and collectives. Extracting arguments from social media is difficult. Messages appear to lack indicators for argument, document structure, or inter-document relationships. In social media, lexical variety, alternative spellings, multiple languages, and alternative punctuation are common. Social media also encompasses numerous genres. These aspects can confound the extraction of well-formed knowledge bases of argument. We chart out the various aspects in order to isolate them for further analysis and processing.
author = {Jodi Schneider and Davis, Brian and Adam Wyner},
title = {Dimensions of Argumentation in Social Media},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management ({EKAW} 2012)},
year = {2012},
note = {To appear},
Shortlink to this page.
By Adam Wyner

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Modelling Policy-making – a Call for Papers

A Special Issue the Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Law on
Modelling Policy-making
Special Issue Editors
Adam Wyner, University of Liverpool, adam@wyner.info
Neil Benn, University of Leeds, n.j.l.benn@leeds.ac.uk
Paper Submission Deadline: May 28, 2012
We invite submission of papers on modelling policy-making. Below we outline the intended audience, context, the topics of interest, and submission details.
We live in an age where citizens are beginning to demand greater transparency and accountability of their political leaders. Furthermore, those who govern and decide on policy are beginning to realise the need for new governance models that emphasise deliberative democracy and promote widespread public participation in all phases of the policy-making cycle: 1) agenda setting, 2) policy analysis, 3) lawmaking, 4) implementation, and 5) monitoring. As governments must become more efficient and effective with the resources available, modern information and communications technology (ICT) are being drawn on to address problems of information processing in the phases. One of the key problems is policy content analysis and modelling, particularly the gap between on the one hand policy proposals and formulations that are expressed in quantitative and narrative forms and on the other hand formal models that can be used to systematically represent and reason with the information contained in the proposals and formulations.
Special Issue Theme
The editors invite submissions of original research about the application of ICT and Computer Science to the first three phases of the policy cycle – agenda setting, policy analysis, and lawmaking. The research should seek to address the gap noted above. The journal volume focusses particularly on using and integrating a range of subcomponents – information extraction, text processing, representation, modelling, simulation, reasoning, and argument – to provide policy making tools to the public and public administrators. While submissions about tool development and practice are welcome, the editors particularly encourage submission of articles that address formal, conceptual, and/or computational issues. Some specific topics within the theme are:

  • information extraction from natural language text
  • policy ontologies
  • formal logical representations of policies
  • transformations from policy language to executable policy rules
  • argumentation about policy proposals
  • web-based tools that support participatory policy-making
  • tools for increasing public understanding of arguments behind policy decisions
  • visualising policies and arguments about policies
  • computational models of policies and arguments about policies
  • integration tools
  • multi-agent policy simulations

Submission Details:
Authors are invited to submit an original, previously unpublished, research paper of up to 30 pages pertaining to the special issue theme. The paper should follow the journal’s instructions for authors and be submitted online. See the dropdown tab under the section FOR AUTHORS AND EDITORS.
Instructions for Authors on:
Submit Online on:
Each submitted paper will be carefully peer-reviewed based on originality, significance, technical soundness, and clarity of exposition and relevance for the journal.
The shortlink to this webpage is:
A PDF version of this CFP:
CFP – Modelling Policy-making
Contact the special issue editors with any questions.
By Adam Wyner

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Recent Papers

My colleagues and I have had the papers below accepted for upcoming conferences. The papers are all downloadable from the links provided.
Towards a Structured Online Consultation Tool
Adam Wyner, Katie Atkinson, and Trevor Bench-Capon
ePart August 2011, Deflt, The Netherlands
The Structured Online Consultation tool (SCT) is a component tool in the IMPACT Project which is used to construct and present detailed surveys that solicit feedback from the public concerning issues in public policy. The tool is underwritten by a computational model of argumentation, incorporating fine-grained, interconnected argumentation schemes. While the public responds to easy to understand questions, the answers can be assimilated into a structured framework for analytic purposes, supporting automated reasoning about arguments and counter-arguments.
Multi-agent Based Classifi cation Using Argumentation From Experience
Maya Wardeh, Frans Coenen, Trevor Bench-Capon, and Adam Wyner
PAKDD May 2011, Shenzhen, China
An approach to multi-agent classi fication, using an Argumentation from Experience paradigm is describe, whereby individual agents argue for a given example to be classifi ed with a particular label according to their local data. Arguments are expressed in the form of classi fication rules which are generated dynamically. The advocated argumentation process has been implemented in the PISA multi-agent framework, which is also described. Experiments indicate that the operation of PISA is comparable with other classi fication approaches and that it can be utilised for Ordinal Classifi cation and Imbalanced Class problems.
Note: I was added to this paper to present it at the conference. I’m familiar with the argumentation aspects, but the data-mining is new to me.
Semantic Models for Policy Deliberation
Katie M. Atkinson, Trevor J.M. Bench-Capon, Dan Cartwright and Adam Z. Wyner
ICAIL June 2011, Pittsburgh, USA
Semantic models have received little attention in recent years, much of their role having been taken over by developments in ontologies. Ontologies, however, are static, and so have only a limited role in reasoning about domains in which change matters. In this paper, we focus on the domain of policy deliberation, where policy decisions are designed to change things to realise particular social values. We explore how a particular kind of state transition system can be constructed to serve as a semantic model to support reasoning about alternative policy decisions. The policy making process includes stages that support the construction of a model, which can then be exploited in reasoning. The reasoning itself will be driven by a particular argumentation scheme for practical reasoning, and the ways in which arguments based on this scheme can be attacked and evaluated. The evaluation provides alternative policy positions. The semantics underpin a current web-based implementation, designed to solicit structured feedback on policy proposals.
Towards Formalising Argumentation about Legal Cases
Adam Z. Wyner, Trevor J.M. Bench-Capon, Katie M. Atkinson
ICAIL June 2011, Pittsburgh, USA
In this paper we offer an account of reasoning with legal cases in terms of argumentation schemes. These schemes, and undercutting attacks associated with them, are expressed as defeasible rules of inference that will lend themselves to formalisation within the ASPIC+ framework. We begin by modelling the style of reasoning with cases developed by Aleven and Ashley in the CATO project, which describes cases using factors, and then extend the account to accommodate the dimensions used in Rissland and Ashley’s earlier HYPO project. Some additional scope for argumentation is then identified and formalised.
By Adam Wyner
Distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0

Presentation at tGov on the IMPACT Project

On March 18, 2011, I gave a presentation at tGov 2011 on the IMPACT Project.
The idea behind “transformational government” (or t-government) is that new technologies will change the way that the public interacts with the operation and delivery of public services, which are web-based, joined-up, citizen-centric than in the past. See, for example, Directgov, the website for the UK government. The IMPACT Project, which relates to how public policy is made, clearly addresses some of these issues.
Follow the links for the slides of the talk A Structured Online Consultation Tool and the paper Towards a Structured Online Consultation Tool.