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Effective Communication in Virtual Adversarial Collaborative Communities
Unformatted Document Text:  12 Habermas’ concept of discourse ethics [20, 21] contains general rules for practical discourse leading to an ideal speech situation, in particular in situations of moral argumentation. The process of moral argumentation is particularly relevant to situations where social conflicts arise and to institutional discourse [23]. These rules guarantee discursive equality, freedom and fair play by not excluding anybody from participating, and by allowing them to challenge anything they deem important, while ensuring that nobody is prevented from exercising these rights. However, an important question is how to translate these ideals into actual conversation support for the real world [7, 18]. Habermas’ discourse ethics are grounded in his theory of communication. Interestingly, the communication setting presupposes certain basic rules, even if in practice, we see these rules often violated. As Habermas claims, there is a “common core of morality in the normative pre-suppositions of communicative interaction” [21]. In the following, we summarize this core in our own words, related to the purpose of this paper. The basic rule is that participants must respect each other as communication subjects. It means that one must be able to give valid reasons for the communicative actions that one performs. This applies to both the speaker and hearer role. The speaker is not obliged to reveal everything she knows or wants, but when asserting something, or requesting some action, she should be be able to give a valid reason (for each validity claim). The hearer is not obliged to agree with everything the speaker says, but he should listen and be willing to indicate whether he agrees or not (and why not). Another important rule implicit in the communicative setting is that in principle, the communication is to be interpreted in the context of the communication, which sometimes can mean complete confidentiality, sometimes giving the whole world access to the discussion. Exporting statements to other contexts cannot be done without the consent of the communicative actors. Within the context, however, communication should always be completely transparent. This list of rules is not meant to be exhaustive, but gives a good starting point for analysis. As noted earlier, Habermas makes a distinction between communicative action and strategic action, although he qualified this distinction in later work. In communicative action, the coordination that is achieved is based on a shared situation definition, whereas in strategic action, the coordination is achieved as a result of the individual actions of the participants supposed to pursue their own goals, taking into account their expectations of the other participants’ goals, and the signals they get about these via the actions of the other. Although this distinction makes sense at a conceptual level, it is not so easy to recognize it in practice [23]. For one thing, it does not mean that participants in communicative action necessarily pursue a common goal and participants in strategic action private goals, or that the goals in one case are harmonic and conflicting in the other. Also in the case of an adversarial discourse situation, the participants can coordinate their dependencies by means of communicative action. In this respect, we do not agree with Ngwenyama and Lyytinen [44] for whom negotiation necessarily implies strategic action. The distinction can also not be based on the linguistic form of the messages, or the use of so-called cooperative speech acts, although these may give indications on the attitude of the participants. However, what we can do is translate the ideals of discourse ethics into practical rules, and we can check whether these rules (communication norms) are adhered to or not. Therefore we propose the following criterion in this paper: a discourse is called communicative action if it follows the communication norms that are legitimate to the community, and is called strategic action if there is a norm violation. In other words, communication norms, properly defined, are a means by which communicative action

Authors: de Moor, Aldo. and Weigand, Hans.
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12
Habermas’ concept of discourse ethics [20, 21] contains general rules for practical
discourse leading to an ideal speech situation, in particular in situations of moral
argumentation. The process of moral argumentation is particularly relevant to
situations where social conflicts arise and to institutional discourse [23]. These rules
guarantee discursive equality, freedom and fair play by not excluding anybody from
participating, and by allowing them to challenge anything they deem important, while
ensuring that nobody is prevented from exercising these rights. However, an
important question is how to translate these ideals into actual conversation support for
the real world [7, 18]. Habermas’ discourse ethics are grounded in his theory of
communication. Interestingly, the communication setting presupposes certain basic
rules, even if in practice, we see these rules often violated. As Habermas claims, there
is a “common core of morality in the normative pre-suppositions of communicative
interaction” [21]. In the following, we summarize this core in our own words, related
to the purpose of this paper. The basic rule is that participants must respect each other
as communication subjects. It means that one must be able to give valid reasons for
the communicative actions that one performs. This applies to both the speaker and
hearer role. The speaker is not obliged to reveal everything she knows or wants, but
when asserting something, or requesting some action, she should be be able to give a
valid reason (for each validity claim). The hearer is not obliged to agree with
everything the speaker says, but he should listen and be willing to indicate whether he
agrees or not (and why not). Another important rule implicit in the communicative
setting is that in principle, the communication is to be interpreted in the context of the
communication, which sometimes can mean complete confidentiality, sometimes
giving the whole world access to the discussion. Exporting statements to other
contexts cannot be done without the consent of the communicative actors. Within the
context, however, communication should always be completely transparent. This list
of rules is not meant to be exhaustive, but gives a good starting point for analysis.
As noted earlier, Habermas makes a distinction between communicative action and
strategic action, although he qualified this distinction in later work. In communicative
action, the coordination that is achieved is based on a shared situation definition,
whereas in strategic action, the coordination is achieved as a result of the individual
actions of the participants supposed to pursue their own goals, taking into account
their expectations of the other participants’ goals, and the signals they get about these
via the actions of the other. Although this distinction makes sense at a conceptual
level, it is not so easy to recognize it in practice [23]. For one thing, it does not mean
that participants in communicative action necessarily pursue a common goal and
participants in strategic action private goals, or that the goals in one case are harmonic
and conflicting in the other. Also in the case of an adversarial discourse situation, the
participants can coordinate their dependencies by means of communicative action. In
this respect, we do not agree with Ngwenyama and Lyytinen [44] for whom
negotiation necessarily implies strategic action. The distinction can also not be based
on the linguistic form of the messages, or the use of so-called cooperative speech acts,
although these may give indications on the attitude of the participants. However, what
we can do is translate the ideals of discourse ethics into practical rules, and we can
check whether these rules (communication norms) are adhered to or not. Therefore we
propose the following criterion in this paper: a discourse is called communicative
action if it follows the communication norms that are legitimate to the community,
and is called strategic action if there is a norm violation. In other words,
communication norms, properly defined, are a means by which communicative action


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