DrEAMS: Dialogue for Argument and Mediation

Publicly-funded mediation offers a cheaper alternative to litigation, but still costs tens of millions of pounds, and with mediation now mandatory in family dispute cases (BBC News), that cost is set to rise dramatically. The 3-year DrEAMS (Dialogue-based Exploration of Argument and Mediation Space) project, funded by The Leverhulme Trust, aims to build a philosophically- and linguistically-grounded model of the mediation process, which will serve as a foundation for developing software tools that provide practical support to mediators in mapping and navigating the space of mediation.

The project will focus on two key areas:

Mapping mediation space

Tools for argument mapping, such as Araucaria and OVA, are generally targeted at an audience with at least a working model of argument analysis. This area of the project aims to develop an argument mapping tool designed specifically for mediation. The tool will be built on a theoretical account of argumentation in dispute mediation and underpinned by the Argument Interchange Format and Argument Web infrastructure.

Models of dialogue for mediation

This area of the project aims to develop models of dialogue for mediation. Structures of dialogue for mediation are complex, and depend on a number of factors such as the willingness of the parties to participate and the exact stage of the process. It also relies on the sophisticated linguistic and dialogical technique of reframing.

Before dialogue structures can be modelled, however, it will first be necessary to identify a method of extracting the real structure from mediation sessions. Analysing real mediation sessions presents certain challenges, due to the confidential and (potentially) highly-charged nature of the process. Thus a key step in this area of the project is to develop a methodology that allows the structure of mediation sessions to be extracted an analysed.

Following the development of dialogue models, these can be combined with the output from the mapping tool towards the development of a system similar to Arvina, aimed at both strategy-development and training. A DGDL Specification of a mediation dialogue game (MDG) is available.

As the project progresses, this page will be updated with relevant publications and other outputs.