Argumentation in the Media
Argumentation is a discursive activity aimed at persuading by presenting reasons. In an ideal open public sphere, contentious issues are solved reasonably, relying on “the unforced force of the better argument” (Habermas). The ability to craft effective and sound arguments and to critically assess arguments as they appear in the current media ecology are critical skills for media professionals.
The course covers the fundamentals of argument analysis, evaluation and production providing a complete logico-rhetorical “survival kit” for media professionals in the age of visual and multimodal persuasion, social media platforms, algorithmic mediation of communication, and generative AI.
The quality of argument is examined under the 5 criteria of freedom, responsibility, acceptability, relevance and sufficiency. Rhetorical effectiveness and the compatibility of rhetorical strategies with reasonableness are also discussed and exemplified.
Topics and stock-issues are introduced as a method of argument analysis and production and applied to debate design, news fact-checking, as well as to crisis communication.
Practical methods for mapping complex argumentative discussions are introduced with the support of an argument visualization software (OVA3) and applied to an original case study, showcasing argument mapping as a powerful content-analysis and discourse analysis method for communication research.
- Reflect on the importance of argumentation for media professionals as a means of persuasion, decision making and critical scrutiny of information, as well as an essential component of good “deliberative dialogue” in the public sphere.
- Learn how to recognize and analyze arguments in opinion articles, press conferences, hard news, (cause-related) advertising images and social media posts.
- Learn how to argue in written form in the age of Generative AI tools. Develop a critical literacy on AI tools for argument generation.
- Learn how to design an argument, react to opposing arguments and deliver an oral presentation by participating in a debate simulation.
- Examine how journalists shape public debate and contribute to public accountability through their question design in interviews and press conferences.
- Understand how social media changed debate in the public sphere and the challenges and opportunities they pose to reasonable public debate.
- Use argumentation as a resource to detect and counter misinformation and polarization in media content and interactions.
- Examine argumentation as a resource for trust- recovery in crisis communication.
Modalità di insegnamento
The course will combine expository lectures, guided analysis and critical thinking exercises and production exercises. Three main activities will be in focus:
(1) A journey through written argument analysis and production where students analyze an opinion article, use generative AI to produce counterarguments to it, evaluate and improve the output;
(2) A team-based debate exercise on a topic of current concern relevant for media professionals;
(3) An individual case-study applying the tools argumentative analysis to social-media polylogues.
Students must attend class for at least 60%. Additionally, students are requested to consistently participate in the above mentioned in-course activities (1, 2 and 3) and submit in-course work in a timely manner.
In-course activities 1 and 2 will amount to 30% of the grade. The score will reflect both the level of participation and the quality of the output.
A final oral exam will assign the remaining 70% of the grade. The oral exam will consist of two components:
A) a presentation of a case study of argumentative discussion in the current networked public sphere (activity 3).
B) an interview on the concepts and cases discussed in the course.
The two components of the oral exam have equal weight.