Sunday, March 29, 2009

Decision Mapping Easier Than Argument Mapping?

The explores the differences between decision mapping and argument mapping, two very similar techniques with a fundamental difference. Whereas argument mapping is applied to an argument, decision mapping is used to determine "choices between multiple possible actions." As an example of each, the author draws both a decision map and an argument map based on a recent New York Times article by Col. Muammar Qaddafi proposing a peace plan for the Middle East.

After applying both techniques to Col. Qaddafi's proposition (which was the creation of "Isratine" - a joint Isreali/Palestinian state), the author found that the decision map was easier to develop than the argument map. Part of this was due to the nature of the piece being analyzed : an article in someone else's words. "The translation from prose to decision map was much more straightforward than the translation from prose to argument map. In the latter case, there seemed to be far more discretion about how to do it, and hence a much higher level of effort and expertise was required to determine which of the approaches would be 'right' or best. "

The author expresses his surprise that the decision map was easier to develop, although he concedes that the subject of the exercise may have had alot to do with that. If decision mapping is, in fact, generally easier than argument mapping, he states that the following would be true as well:
  • Decision mapping should find faster and wider uptake than argument mapping
  • From a pedagogical or training perspective, decision mapping should be introduced first, with argument mapping treated as a more advanced subject.
In a comment to the blog, a reader notes that he, too, finds decision mapping to be easier to use than argument mapping. He points out "For some reason argument mapping seems to be so much more dependent on language and context and is perhaps more prone to making mistakes." He explains that it is possible to mis-represent the author of an argument when constructing the argument map due to the tendency to want to "close the gaps automatically even if the original text doesn’t necessarily support it. " He further states that the first step of the decision mapping process is the most crucial, i.e. "sizing up the situation appropriately." The author responds, stating that that first step is critical, although he has no advice as to how to make sure you go about it correctly.

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