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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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12. Ethics in HMC: Recent Developments and Case Studies (Charles Ess)


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12. Ethics in HMC: Recent Developments and Case Studies


Ethics and HMC? From (Positivist) Opposition to Complementarity and Convergence

It might be thought that Human-Machine Communication (HMC) and ethics have little, if anything to do with one another. To be sure, those engaged in the more technical sides of HMC—ICT designers, software engineers, roboticists, and so on—are at least nominally beholden to the ethics codes and guidelines of their specific professional organizations (e.g., ACM, 1992). But more broadly, ethics and technology have largely been kept separate—until relatively recently. In Part I, I explore these backgrounds and developments in three interrelated ways, beginning with how technological developments themselves help forge dialogue between ethicists and philosophers with computer scientists and engineers: the same pattern is further apparent in the rise of “robo-philosophy” over the past decade or so. Secondly, transformations in our understanding of science have led specifically to conceptions of complementarity between science (as the ground of technology) and ethics. Lastly, these complementarities are instantiated in striking examples of convergence between applied ethics and technical fields emerging from the praxis of contemporary ICT projects and especially contemporary ethics of design—including, finally, emerging requirements for autonomous systems.

Across the course of Part I, I will also introduce the primary ethical frameworks that come into play as they emerge in conjunction with specific developments and projects. This approach thereby highlights how these...

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