Rethinking Drugs Policy

Following the publication of the report by the RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public Policy earlier this year, the Debatemapper team worked with the RSA to create a debate map of the case made in the report for rethinking UK drugs policy.

The map decomposes the report’s arguments into constituent elements, each of which is open to further refinement, challenge, comment and evaluation. You can see the top level structure of the map in the debate strand below.

The Commission’s report is intended to feed into the UK Government’s 2008 review of the National Drugs Strategy; for which a formal public consultation process is underway. You can read more about the RSA’s other initiatives in this context here.

The debate map is now open to editing, comment and evaluation by anyone with an interest in the drugs policy field, and we hope that over time a community of experts will form around the map to cultivate it as a permanent resource for drugs policy stakeholders in the UK and beyond.

With the wider international debate in mind – and to illustrate how Debatemapper can be used to build clusters of interrelated maps – we have also created a new map from an existing strand of the RSA debate map, which explores the arguments for and against the legalisation of drugs.

The top-level arguments are shown in the strand below. Like a wiki, the debate map is inherently provisional and open to further refinement. So if you spot any gaps or weaknesses in the arguments or if you have any new lines of thought or evidence to contribute, please feel free to sign in and start editing and evaluating the map straightaway. Video and text help is available directly from the map.


6 Responses to “Rethinking Drugs Policy”

  1. John on March 14th, 2008 12:19 pm

    I’m interested in the climate debate can a debate graph express ideas more efficiently than Gristmills “how to talk to a climate skeptic”?

  2. David on March 14th, 2008 5:55 pm


    Thanks for the question.

    Grist is an excellent resource, and the layout of the sceptical arguments is exemplary.

    The additional dimensions that Debategraph can bring to the material include:

    > Making every point in the argument editable / improvable.

    > Making it possible to respond directly to each point and counter point in the debate, and to raise new issues at any point.

    > Enabling the community to rate the merits of every point in the debate.

    > The ability to show the interrelationships between the different arguments and overlapping debates.

    Following the launch of Debategraph as creative commons project, work building the climate change map will start properly next week.

    You would be most welcome to join us in this endeavour, as indeed would any members of the Grist team who might be interested in doing so.


  3. John on March 15th, 2008 5:11 am

    Thanks David, Debate mapper is esentially an argument map isn’t it? I can see the value of an argument map in that it forces people to dwell at points in an argument.
    There is a debate going on at present on the NZ Green Party blog

    Frogblog: Climate Change Deniers’ Last Gasp

    I’m thinking that debates such as this need a guiding process/ format but something that maintains the positive motivations of contest and expression and I’m wondering if debate mapper can do this?
    Perhaps debate mapper could have indexing and the forum moderator could rule that every discussion point be indexed [2d1.2] “blah, blah…” ?

    I can see the problem of presenting a tree on a flat screen with limited space. How would indexing in the margins work (as in paper staionary)?

  4. David on March 15th, 2008 2:09 pm

    John, thanks again. To respond to each point in turn:

    (1) an editable argument map is a central aspect of our approach. Debategraph is also more than this. For example:

    > Each element on a debate map is analogous to a full wiki page; to which images, charts, videos and text up to 50,000 words can be added (and displayed in View 1).

    > Each element is also analogous to a blog post; to which free-form comments can be added (and again displayed in View 1).

    > Each element can be associated with external articulations of the substantive point it makes (i.e. pertinent excerpts from documents elsewhere on the web or in paper form); so the map can begin to organise and index a field of knowledge across the web (and people can add their own documents as exemplars of a particular point, if they wish to do so).

    > The structure of the debate map is shaped by the community rating function so that the arguments the community perceives to be the best/most persuasive rise to the top.

    > Semantic cross-relations between debate maps can also be mapped; so that rather than just mapping a single argument it’s possible to map entire, multi-dimensional clusters of arguments and debates in a field of knowledge, and between fields of knowledge.

    (2) The argument map visualises and externalises the debate, allowing people to explore its structure in a more reflective mode than is sometimes possible in the cut and thrust of live debate. It also enables people to respond to specific point directly where the original point is made; so that anyone who sees the original point also sees the response (and so on).

    (3) The indexing suggestion is an excellent idea and I’ll reflect further on this. Currently, if I have understood correctly, there are three potential ways in which the kind of cross-site indexing you are describing can already be handled with Debategraph: (i) Every element in a debate has its own URL; so an external forum moderator can already include (or encourage others to include) direct links in/from the forum to the relevant parts of the debate map. (ii) Each element on the map has a unique numerical identifier, which can also be used to facilitate cross-site indexing. (iii) Pertinent snapshots (like the ones embedded in blog post above) can be embedded in the forum whenever anyone raises an argument that has already been mapped thoroughly. The embedded snapshots can cover a single point in full detail, a particular strand of the debate, or a whole debate map within the same sized (and resizable frame).

    (4) If you think that it would be interesting to do so, we could start to experiment with this next week by mapping the arguments expressed so far on the Climate Change Deniers’ Last Gasp blog post.

    If I have missed or misinterpreted any of the points, or if any of the above is unclear, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

  5. John on March 15th, 2008 5:47 pm

    (4) Great idea David.

  6. David on March 17th, 2008 1:39 am

    John, let’s go for it then: I’ll post a link to the debate map here as soon as the map is underway.

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