Argument maps, belief networks, debate maps, decision diagrams … all are ways of setting out visually the logical development of a line of thinking, discussion or deliberation where the aim is to reach a conclusion in a complex set of circumstances. Where a topic is under discussion among several people, or even where an individual is making a decision alone, a formal and visual approach can help in making an agreed position clear. Arguments are laid out with ‘supports’, ‘opposes’ and ‘rebuts’ elements so that the users can see all points raised in support of or against a contention. The basis for each element of the argument is also given to support the viewpoints.
An advantage of mapping out an argument is that it can take the heat out of the conversation in the early stages. That is, we can take the approach of “We’re just trying to record all views here, let’s make sure we have everything down before we start arguing.”
There are many software products that help produce visual representations of argument, debate or belief. Here are some: Araucaria, Argumentative, Argunet, bCisive, Carneades, Cohere, Copeit, Debategraph, Flying Logic, GeNIe, iLogos, jCollam, MindDecider, Netica, PIRIKA, Rationale, Riyarchy, Theorymaps, Truthmapping and Wrangle. Some of these, like GeNIe and jCollam, are oriented towards developers, Netica is for Bayesian networks, and some look more like student projects than mature products.
Rationale and bCisive are reviewed at Mind-Mapping.Org.