Mapping the world's opinions

Parlia's Style Guide

CORE PRINCIPLES

We believe that healthy debate is good. But in the current environment, it is hard to have quality debates or to explore the different viewpoints surrounding an idea. Parlia aims to help people become better informed and equip everyone with the knowledge to form their own opinions. Parlia does not aim to persuade or influence that opinion making.

Parlia is an encyclopaedia of opinion; its purpose is to map all relevant and important arguments about everything. ‘Everything’ means the big abstract questions, history debates, current affairs and culture, through to breaking news and the quirky (what was The Shining really all about)…

Parlia is intended to be descriptive, not prescriptive. That means Parlia aims to only record the most important and relevant arguments for any question, not all the infinite possibilities. A point of view needs to be supported by multiple people or sources for Parlia to consider it a relevant argument. And it also means Parlia is interested in all relevant opinions, not just the ‘valid’ ones. If a sizeable demographic believe that 2+2=5, we need to have that represented.

Parlia is designed to catalogue ideas, not to judge them. It is therefore critical that we describe positions and arguments in as sincere, neutral and value-free way as possible - no caricatures, no bad faith. Some subjects are particularly sensitive to people: we treat those, as all subjects, with formal respect.

Parlia is a dictionary of ideas, not a debating site. We exist to map the world of ideas: we hope we’ll help you formulate yours, but we’re not a place for you to share your particular viewpoint.

Parlia is about readability. We work to make the ideas as understandable and accessible as quickly as possible.

Parlia is about summarization. We work to articulate the opinions we map as clearly, accurately, and as simply as possible.

Finally, Parlia is for everyone. Parlia is a wiki, which means there will be lots of debate about the content and formulations on Parlia. All that debate will take place in our Talk Pages. Here, we follow the strictest rules of civility. We engage in debate about ideas, not against individuals who have contributed. Ad hominem attacks of any sort will not be tolerated.

STYLE GUIDE

Terms

Questions are matters that generate discussions involving different positions.

Positions are stances taken on an issue.

Arguments are sets of reasons supporting a Position.

Premises are the main components of the Argument.

Proponents are individuals or groups who have publicly committed to a Position on an Issue.

How are Issues expressed?

On Parli Issues are expressed by two types of questions. Each question has its particular guidelines which you’ll find below:

  1. IXY Questions:

Questions will most often take the format: “Is X Y?” or “Does X do Y?”

Examples might be: “Is a trade war beneficial to the US?”, “Is Serena Williams the greatest female tennis player of all time?”, “Does God exist?”

If in doubt, always frame your question as an IXY Question.

  1. Maps:

Maps group sets of issues, pointing to the common topic underlying them. They answer the question “What are the issues about?”. For example: “Map: greatest ever footballers” provides a way of grouping smaller level IXY Questions like: “Is Messi the greatest ever footballer?”, “Is Pele the greatest ever footballer?”, etc… because the Map can cover them all.

Maps will always follow the format “Map: #MeToo”, “Map: implications of climate change”, “Map: causes of the Civil War”

IXY

Issues will most often take the format of a yes/no question: “Is X Y?” or “Does X do Y?”

Examples might be: “Is a trade war beneficial to the US?”, “Is Serena Williams the greatest female tennis player of all time?”, “Does God exist?”

If in doubt, always frame your question as an IXY Question.

Identifying Issues Issues are matters which give rise to significant (dis)agreement. The key feature of an Issue is the presence of multiple Proponents holding different and conflicting positions about the Issue.

When formulating the questions expressing the Issue, it is important to choose the most representative words: does a specific word crop up frequently in the positions/arguments made by several Proponents? If, for example, most proponents use the term “legal” (“X is legal” or “X is not legal”) in their arguments, then formulating the Issue as “Is X legal?” may have more relevance than formulating it as “Is X justifiable? or “Is X moral?”

Identifying Positions For all IXY questions, there will be 4 standard position responses.

  • Affirmative: Yes, X is Y
  • Indeterminate: Whether X is Y or not is unknowable or unknown
  • Negative: No, X is not Y
  • Questioning the relevance: whether X is an Y or not is irrelevant to the issue Each Position should be worded as a single-clause declarative sentence, e.g.: “Yes, the Trade War is beneficial to the US”; “We cannot know if God exists”; “No, Serena Williams is not the greatest female tennis player of all time”.

MAP

The Map format looks to map the general positions or viewpoints around any given issue. Maps provide an overview of the broad groups of opinion on any given subject, and they answer the question: “What are the positions on…?”

Maps provide a way of grouping smaller IXY questions. For example: “Map: greatest ever footballers” provides a way of grouping smaller level IXY Questions like: “Is Messi the greatest ever footballer?”, “Is Pele the greatest ever footballer?”, etc… because the Map can cover them all.

Maps will always follow the format “Map: #MeToo”, “Map: implications of climate change”, “Map: causes of the Civil War”

Identifying Maps Maps are qualitatively different from IXY Questions. IXY Questions have answers, Maps seek to map the terrain of opinion around a particular issue.

Examples of Maps might be: “Maps: #MeToo”; “Maps: how do deal with the crisis in Syria”; “Maps: causes of climate change”.

As with IXY Questions, Maps cover issues (general or specific) about which there is significant disagreement, and which have multiple Proponents debating their opinions on the subject with each other.

Identifying Positions

With Maps, more judgment has to be exercised to identify the broad positions since they won’t follow the same Affirmative/Negative/Indeterminate/Irrelevant pattern of IXY Questions. To help narrow these down, Parlia limits the number of Positions to eight for each Map.

Individual Positions should be framed, as much as possible, so that a single assertion is being made. Generally, each Position should be expressible via a single declarative statement without conditional clauses, i.e. “X is Y” or “X is not Y” - not “X is Y and Z” or “X is Y if A”.

When framing Maps, a gauge of relevance and importance is the Word Test: what is the number or significance of Proponents who use a particular word or phrase as a component of their arguments? If, for example, several Proponents use the term “legal” in their arguments, they may be usefully grouped in the “X is legal” Position.

ARGUMENTS

Arguments are (set) of reasons in support of a Position. If the Position is the “what”, the Argument is the “why”. “[Position] is correct because [Argument]” Eg: Position: “Yes, Pele is the greatest footballer of all time” (because) Argument: “Pele won two World Cups and he never failed a score in the last two years”. The Argument is a summary of the reasoning from which the conclusion identified in the Position follows. The Argument title should include the subject of the question and avoid pronouns (she, he, they, them, it, this, etc.).

PREMISES

Premises are the back bones of arguments. They express the single reasons which make up the argument. They can take various forms from evaluations (“a child’s life is more valuable than anything else”) to the expression of facts (“During the war, 1000 thousands people die”). The sentences which make up premises can provide support for the Position in different ways: -can directly support the position —SIMPLE PREMISE: [Pele won two world cups]premise. [He is the best footballer of all times]position.
-can support the position ONLY if considered together with another premise —LINKED PREMISES : [The two major alternatives to oil are solar or wind energy ]premise1. [There is no infrastructure for wind energy in UK]premise2. [The best form of alternative energy for UK is solar]position -one premise supports another another one in a chain —SERIAL PREMISES:[Today all the store are closed]premise1. [We cannot buy chocolate]premise2. [We cannot bake brownies] position

Premises should be numbered [P1] , [P2], [P3], … etc. This allows for easy reference in the counter section.

PROPONENTS

Proponents are public individuals, institutions or bodies that have articulated their support for a given Argument and Position.

Proponents are the starting point of all Questions. Proponents’ views must be clearly articulated in a quotable context - audio, text or video - with a reference to that quotation. Proponents need not be internally consistent (Rene Descartes may declare Orange the most beautiful colour on Wednesday, and declare Blue the best on Thursday), but they must have made the Argument or taken the Position they are being shown to support explicitly and consciously. The context of their words should always be taken into account.

In some Maps, Proponents are people or bodies that have made the strongest case for the importance of a particular argument, but not necessarily made it to the exclusion of all other arguments. In the example, “Map: the causes of the First World War”, few people would argue for a single cause. Proponents in this instance should simply be those who have most forcefully and convincingly made the argument about a particular cause.

Proponent images should show the proponent in a neutral way. For companies and organizations this may be a logo.

IMAGES

Images selected to be shown with an issue should be representative of the issue, can be atmospheric, and should be as neutral as possible.

SOURCES

We look for sources from reputable publications, widely accessible to the public.

This page was last edited on Wednesday, 8 Jan 2020 at 17:44 UTC