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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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Introduction: “What Is Human-Machine Communication, Anyway?” (Andrea L. Guzman)


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Introduction: “What Is Human-Machine Communication, Anyway?”


The question that serves as this chapter’s title is the guiding theme for this edited volume. It is one that I and other human-machine communication scholars have been asked numerous times as we have attempted to formalize this area of study and its central concept. Most people grasp that, as its name implies, human-machine communication, or HMC, has something to do with people’s interactions with technology. In actuality, human-machine communication is both a concept and an area of research within communication. It is the creation of meaning among humans and machines and the study of this meaning-making and related aspects. But in a discipline where communication has long been conceptualized as a human process through machines, exactly what human-machine communication is, where it fits into the study of communication, and what it can potentially bring to communication are not readily clear. HMC as an area of study within communication also is still taking shape. Its primary catalyst has been scholars from throughout the discipline coming together to discuss their research, to address shared questions, and to help build a scholarly community. Because HMC is taking shape from the ground up, questions related to the nature of HMC are just as critical for existing HMC scholars as they are for scholars and students new to this area.

This chapter begins to provide some of these answers. I say, begin,...

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