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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L003112/1
Title: Visualising the UK General Election 2015 TV Debates
Principal Investigator: Coleman, Professor S
Other Investigators:
Buckingham Shum, Dr J Wilson, Dr P Moss, Dr G
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: School of Media & Communication
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 November 2013 Ends: 30 June 2017 Value (£): 382,053
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Computer Graphics & Visual. Human Communication in ICT
Information & Knowledge Mgmt
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Creative Industries
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
17 Jul 2013 EPSRC ICT Responsive Mode - July 2013 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
During the 2010 general election the first ever televised leaders' debates to be held in the United Kingdom took place. A key argument in favour of these televised events was that they could reach a wider audience than is usual for politically-related content and that, after watching them, normally apolitical debate-watchers might be better informed about election issues; more likely to discuss policies with their friends and families; and more likely to vote than those who are not exposed to the debates. In short, televised election debates perform a heuristic function, providing voters with resources that enable them to carry out their normative role as informed and reflective citizens of a representative democracy. Research conducted by Coleman et al ("Leaders in the Living Room--The Prime Ministerial Debates of 2010", Oxford: Reuters Institute, 2011) after the 2010 UK debates showed that there was a significant public appetite for this means of learning about the candidates and their policies, but that many viewers were left feeling uncertain about the meaning of what they had witnessed. This prompted a group of scholars from different disciplines - information science, political communication and design - to get together with a view to exploring how future televised leaders' debates might be made more comprehensible to groups of viewers with specific information needs.

In considering the best approach to presenting complex arguments to citizens with a view to generating better informed public debate about political issues, we have turned to the field of Computer-Supported Argumentation Visualisation (CSAV) which has a track record of utilising innovative information techniques to present complex arguments that citizens can make sense of and reflect upon in the course of policy deliberations.

Our aim in this research is to develop an open-source web-based platform that incorporates a suite of visualisation tools and to develop a working model of how this platform can be embedded within a mixed-media ecology for covering and responding to issues of public political debate. The platform will be designed with a view to i) responding to the information needs of audiences and specific types of audience member; ii) presenting the discursive content in ways that take account of the aesthetic and symbolic needs of information seekers; and iii) not only visualising the debaters' arguments by adopting innovative CSAV methods, but also visualising other features of the debates through the use of non-CSAV-specific techniques, such as word-cloud visualisations (where key words and phrases used in a debate are extracted and visualised such that graphical features like font-size, colour, and positioning are used to depict most import words and phrases) and time-series analyses (where the emphasis is on visualising the chronology of the various speech acts during the debate, so that the context "in time" of key rhetorical events can be captured).
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Organisation Website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk