Watching a Hay Digital event early last week, I was frustrated by the way that some excellent comments disappeared so quickly up the screen. I wondered whether ‘argument mapping’ could be the answer. If you haven’t come across it, think of mind mapping, but applied to a discussion. We found some free software called Coggle, which is easy to use, and three of us started practising.

We each had a different role. Ella put comments into the GoogleDoc, Geena transferred them to the Coggle map and I listened to the speakers and summarised what they said in the map. In practice, it was more complex than that, mainly because the balance between points made by speakers and by audience members varied between events and during the course of each event.

For the last couple of events, we were able to produce the map in real time. At the end of the event we put a link to the map in the chat. One of the maps is here. (Note that with coggle you can click and drag to move the map around, and if you right-click you get a gadget which allows you to shrink or grow the picture.)

It summarises the whole discussion on a single page, gives the discussion a clear structure, and should work equally well for people who were in the audience for the event and for those who weren’t. I like the way in which it puts the participants (whose comments are in red) on a more equal footing with the speakers, compared to the actual event. We got some lovely comments back from members of the audience, and they are here.

Where next? Perhaps the Hay Festival would like to collaborate with us next year. We’re going to experiment with mapping a debate from the Welsh Assembly. After that, who knows? Or perhaps you do?

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