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Theorizing a perspective on World Wide Web argumentation

, University of Washington, United States

University of Washington . Awarded


This dissertation theorizes a perspective on argumentation specifically for the World Wide Web, how it derives from the type of textuality unique to the World Wide Web, analyzes three different types of web-based argumentation to test the theory, and suggests pedagogical implications of the theory. This study represents the first sustained attempt to theorize how argumentation is changed within the context of the World Wide Web and introduces two concepts, “process-product ambiguity” and “structured dissonance,” to explain how the temporal nature of World Wide Web textuality can be employed argumentatively. These concepts, based largely on Toulmin's argumentation theories, represent a departure from understandings of hypertextual argumentation which oppose hypertextual argumentation to print argumentation. Together they allow us to define web-based argumentation as a human interaction in which interactors examine the justifications for lines of reasoning that are evolutionary accretions resulting from reasoning toward the probability of propositions given the context in which they occur. A test of the theory against actual World Wide Web arguments reveals that while not all web-based arguments utilize every aspect of the theory, the theory does hold true to a large degree in experimental academic arguments and demonstrates that web-based argumentation is in transition from more conventional forms of argument to those proposed in this study. The transition and the increasing significance of the World Wide Web as an expressive medium suggests changes need to be implemented in argumentative writing education and the study concludes with pedagogical strategies which help teach this type of argumentation.


Williams, S.D. Theorizing a perspective on World Wide Web argumentation. Ph.D. thesis, University of Washington. Retrieved March 23, 2019 from .

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