GVU Center Brown Bag: Michael Hoffmann - Using Reflection Tools for Digital Deliberation on Wicked Problems


Michael Hoffmann


2016-09-08 11:30:00


TSRB 132 (Ballroom)

GVU Center Brown Bag Seminar: GVU Center Brown Bag: Michael Hoffmann - Using Reflection Tools for Digital Deliberation on Wicked Problems

In a complex world, problems are often “wicked,” meaning that it is not even clear what the problem is. Wicked problems are framed differently by different stakeholders depending on their interests, needs, knowledge, available methods, world-views, or values. Our ability to cope with wicked problems-and with the conflicts they usually create-is crucial for corporate, political, and legal decision making but also for the design of technologies. Given the difficulties and multi-perspectivity of wicked problems, a deliberative paradigm for decision making and democratic governance seems to be most promising. Based on this paradigm, decisions and policies are legitimate only if they are generated through a process of deliberation and open exchange of opinions. This requires that everyone who effects or is effected by a decision have a voice in making it. A deliberative approach to decision making requires publicity, transparency, equal inclusion for participation, and the justified expectation that outcomes will be reasonable and fair. The talk will present some of the strategies that have been developed in recent years to cope with wicked problems by means of deliberation. The focus will be on a new strategy that pursues three goals: 1) To bring together a large variety of people from diverse walks of life and to provide them opportunities to express their specific points of views so that new and useful knowledge can be generated through collaborative reasoning; 2) To stimulate-for each participant-critical reflection on weaknesses, gaps, biases, and hidden assumptions in one's own thinking, as well as efforts to correct these limitations, as it is required for achieving consensus; and 3) To achieve all this with a web-based platform that supports and structures reflective deliberation online.


Dr. Michael Hoffmann is an Associate Professor for Philosophy at Georgia Tech's School of Public Policy, Director of the School's Philosophy Program and of the AGORA Project, and Associate Director of the Center for Ethics and Technology, responsible for the area Deliberative Technology Assessment. Dr. Hoffmann's research focuses on reasoning with diagrammatic representations and the design of representational guidance in human-computer interaction. Recent projects include the development of the collaborative argument mapping tool "AGORA-net" (http://agora.gatech.edu); an approach to problem-based learning in which reasoning in teams of students who collaborate on wicked problems is structured and guided by the AGORA software; and research on how reflection and self-correcting reasoning can be stimulated by deliberative argument mapping.