Multi-Party Argumentation for Health & Wellbeing

Our Virtual Coaches will be able to operate as fully autonomous intelligent agents, and must learn how to use arguments to persuade the user and each other. In this way, the project advances the state of the art in Multi-Party Argumentation for Health & Wellbeing.

The Council of Coaches system that we are building in this project requires a component that allows structured coaching dialogues to take place. These dialogues can occur between the patient and the coaches, but also between the coaches themselves. In order to facilitate this, the project is constructing a Dialogue and Argumentation Framework (Work Package 5 of the Work Plan).

We want these dialogues to proceed in a way that closely resembles real dialogues, and thus the framework must permit naturalistic features, including (but not limited to) interruption and (possibly non-verbal) back-channels. While there are existing systems and platforms for dialogue management, these generally contain a centralised component that restricts
when users can interact and thus are insufficient for the required purpose in the Council of Coaches.

In charge of the Dialogue and Argumentation Framework is the University of Dundee who have been working on argumentation in various contexts for many years. Within Council of Coaches, there proposed framework consists of three important parts:

Dialogue Game Description Language (DGDL)

The Dialogue Game Description Language (or DGDL) is a language equipped with everything one might expect to need for the rapid development of a new dialogue system for a new domain or application (Wells & Reed, 2012; Lawrence et al., 2017). The DGDL is a domain-specific language for capturing the properties, rules and moves of a dialogue game. Game specifications written in DGDL consist of three main parts: composition, rules, and interactions.

Dialogue Game Execution Platform (DGEP)

Having specified a game in the DGDL, this specification can then be processed using the Dialogue Game Execution Platform (DGEP). DGEP interprets and transforms a DGDL specification into a dialogue framework that enforces the rules in that specification. DGEP provides a suite of tools for testing dialogue game specifications. These tools are being used in the development of the specific dialogue games for the Council of Coaches project.

Argument Interchange Format (AIF)

A by-product of executing dialogue games using DGEP is an argumentative structure, expressed in AIF+, which is a reflection of the outcome of the dialogue. This structure will feed into the project’s central shared knowledge base component (developed in Work Package 3 of the Work Plan) and provide a means of reasoning about the outcome of the dialogue; for instance, determining an agreed diet plan, or new exercise goal. These structures can also be used to influence future dialogues, by allowing the coaches to reflect on the effectiveness of the strategy they adopted.


(Wells & Reed, 2012) Wells, S., & Reed, C. (2012). A Domain Specific Language for Describing Diverse Systems of Dialogue. Journal of Applied Logic, 10(4), 309-329.

(Lawrence et al., 2017) Lawrence, J., Snaith, M., Konat, B., Budzynska, K., & Reed, C. (2017). Debating Technology for Dialogical Argument: Sensemaking, Engagement and Analytics. ACM Transactions on Internet Technology, 17(3), 24:1-24:23.