Activities and Insights
During the workshop, we conducted a series of design activities. First, we used a speculative version of Thing Interview where participants embodied conversational agents. This activity was also inspired by the podcast Everything is Alive. Then we discussed emergent themes, and using those, we interviewed conversational agents directly.
Some emergent themes were gender, identity, ownership, ecology, religion, Trust and Situatedness. Conversational agents were a particularly interesting case to encounter these issues in action. Conversational agents seem to be something very specific and at the same time nothing. We positioned them as nonhuman things that ‘act as’ or are interpreted as ‘acting like’ humans as provocations to uncover some of these issues in a situated way. We unpacked the ways in which these agents are positioned within dominant narratives and stereotypes, and how those inform interactions with them.
The topics of the reflection were related to how to design conversational agents differently and how to do research with them. Key questions were about the challenges of imagining new types of conversational agents and the need for radical defamiliarization tactics and new metaphors. Important questions were: How can we break through our own limitations and imagine other types of agents or roles for those agents in design and research? How can we trespass the expectations of human-likeness of conversational agents? How could they provoke us?