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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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3. Child or Product? The Rhetoric of Social Robots (Leslie M. Fritz)


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3. Child or Product? The Rhetoric of Social Robots


Imagine a robot in the home. In every home. And not just any robot, but one that can interact socially and express emotion; a robot that can speak, listen, laugh, sing and sigh. Nearly three decades of cross-disciplinary research suggests that such humanlike social behavior—even when exhibited by a technological apparatus as mundane as a computer monitor—leads humans to respond socially in turn (Reeves & Nass, 1996). How will we interact with robots that are designed to communicate like humans, and what will it mean for our understanding of human communication? Will we perceive social robots to be subjects like ourselves, as objects like the other technologies in our homes, or as something in between?

This question of ontological classification is an important one. Confusion over the ontological status of social robots may cause emotional harm to users, including the harm of unidirectional attachment to a robot (Scheutz, 2012) or risk-taking and grieving for a robot (Garreau, 2007). Perhaps even more concerning is the possibility that we, as human beings, will come to accept human-robot relationships as adequate substitute for human-human relationships (Turkle, 2011). However, much of the previous research on human-robot interaction (HRI) has been constrained by the limitations of the field and the lack of product on the consumer marketplace. The limited exposure of study participants to social robots—both in...

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