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Human-Machine Communication

Rethinking Communication, Technology, and Ourselves


Edited By Andrea L. Guzman

From virtual assistants to social robots, people are increasingly interacting with intelligent and highly communicative technologies throughout their daily lives. This shift from communicating with people to communicating with people and machines challenges how scholars have theorized and studied communication. Human-Machine Communication: Rethinking Communication, Technology, and Ourselves addresses this transition in how people communicate and who, or what, they communicate with and the implications of this evolution for communication research. Geared toward scholars interested in people’s interactions with technology, this book serves as an introduction to human-machine communication (HMC) as a specific area of study within communication (encompassing human-computer interaction, human-robot interaction, and human-agent interaction) and to the research possibilities of HMC. This collection includes papers presented as part of a scholarly conference on HMC, along with invited works from noted researchers. Topics include defining HMC, theoretical approaches to HMC, applications of HMC, and the larger implications of HMC for self and society. The research presented here focuses on people’s interactions with multiple technologies (artificial intelligence, algorithms, and robots) used within different contexts (home, workplace, education, journalism, and healthcare) from a variety of epistemological and methodological approaches (empirical, rhetorical, and critical/cultural). Overall, Human-Machine Communication provides readers with an understanding of HMC in a way that supports and promotes further scholarly inquiry in a growing area of communication research.

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1. Animals, Humans, and Machines: Interactive Implications of Ontological Classification (Autumn P. Edwards)


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1. Animals, Humans, and Machines: Interactive Implications of Ontological Classification


On August 1, 2015, the battered and dismembered body of a robot was discovered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s historic Old City neighborhood. A photo tweeted from the site showed a decapitated torso and legs, rolled onto one side and flung atop a shallow bed of dried leaves and debris (Courtois, 2015). The robot’s arms, wrenched from their sockets, lay nearby. This was the body of hitchBOT, the social humanoid robot created by Canadian university professors David Harris Smith and Frauke Zeller, which began its journey across the United States just two weeks prior. Earlier that year, it had successfully solicited lifts across Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands, all the while making light automated banter, taking photos, and posting updates to its popular social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter (Victor, 2015). Social media reactions to hitchBOT’s demise were numerous, swift, and varied (Brandt, 2015):

“So an American goes to another country and kills it beloved lion. Another country sends #hitchBOT to America and we kill it. Yeah America.”

“Goodbye sweet Prince, wish my city would’ve shown you more love. #hitch BOTinUSA”

“If you’re a ‘fan’ of a gimmicky hitchhiking robot, you need to reevaluate how it was your soul ended up being so empty.”

“We don’t even like Uber here of course we’re not gonna like a hitchhiking...

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