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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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This volume demarcates a new area of research within the larger study of communication—Human-Machine Communication (HMC). As I explain in greater detail in the introduction, the concept of human-machine communication is not new (it is more than a half-century old); however, the conceptualization of people’s interactions with various machines (artificial intelligence, robots, algorithms, industrial technologies, etc.) as communication by communication scholars with a collective focus on understanding the creation of meaning between human and machine through the process of message exchange between human and machine, the building of relationships among people and technology, and the resulting individual, societal, and cultural implications is novel.

This book is the product of the first HMC post-conference for communication scholars, “Communicating with Machines: The Rising Power of Digital Interlocutors in Our Lives,” that convened as part of the International Communication Association’s (ICA) conference in Fukuoka, Japan in June 2016. I spearheaded the conference along with Steve Jones, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC); David J. Gunkel, Northern Illinois University (NIU); Autumn P. Edwards, Western Michigan University; Chad Edwards, Western Michigan University; and Patric R. Spence, University of Kentucky. The conference was sponsored by the Department of Communication at UIC; the Department of Communication at NIU; the College of Communication & Information, School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky; School of Communication, Western Michigan University, and the Communication & Social Robotics Labs. The inaugural all-day event included paper and poster presentations, networking, and formal and informal discussions around...

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