-- KerstinFischer -- 16 Aug 2006

The Pragmatics of Human-Computer Interaction

Panel in the framework of the 10th Conference of the International Pragmatics Association, July 9-14, 2007, in Gothenburg, Sweden

Kerstin Fischer

Language-based human-computer interfaces are becoming more and more common, yet the study of such speech situations presents both practical as well as theoretical challenges, since it allows the controlled investigation of general pragmatic processes and mechanisms involved in interaction with novel, unfamiliar and somewhat restricted communication partners. The panel addresses the pragmatics of verbal human-computer interaction from the following related perspectives:

a)The first area of interest concerns the linguistic adaptations speakers make when talking to computers as communication partners and the relationship of such adaptations to speakers’ attention to general conversational structures (Hutchby 2001), alignment with the artificial communication partner (Pearson et al. 2006), and adjustments based on stereotypical conceptions about such communication partners (Fischer 2006), thus providing insights in general mechanisms of recipient design.

b)The second area addresses human-computer speech interfaces from the point of view of system output design. In particular, the aim is to collect and systematize empirical data on the effects of linguistic properties of the computer’s linguistic strategies in order to identify conversational features that prove useful for human-computer interaction, depending on the mechanisms identified under a).

c)The results from the discussion will be used to address the problem of dialogue evaluation. Current approaches often focus on measurable criteria such as length of dialogue and task efficiency, rely on speech act felicity or analyses of misunderstanding, or employ post hoc questionnaires to determine user satisfaction. However, the analyses of the properties of human-computer dialogues outlined above allow a much more fine-grained pragmatic analysis of discourse success (cf. Bernsen & Dybkjär 2004), and the panel will contribute to defining a research strategy for detailed pragmatic system evaluation.

Fischer, Kerstin (2006): What Computer Talk is and Isn’t: Human-Computer Conversation as Intercultural Communication. Saarbrücken: AQ.
Hutchby, Ian (2001): Conversation and Technology. Cambridge: Polity.
Pearson, J., Hu, J., Branigan, H.P., Pickering, M.J. and Nass, C. (2006): Adaptive language behavior in HCI: how expectations and beliefs about a system affect users' word choice. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Montréal, April 2006, pp. 1177-1180.
Niels Ole Bernsen and Laila Dybkjär (2004): Evaluation of Spoken Multimodal Conversation. In Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Multimodal Interfaces (ICMI), Penn State University, USA, October 2004, pp. 38-45.

The panel comprises:
  • Manja Lohse "Try something else. When users change their discursive behavior in HRI"

  • Akgun Mahir  "The role of apologetic error messages in the performance
perception of users in HCI"

  • Elizabeth Meddeb "The pragmatics of speaking to write for non-native
speakers of English"

  • Michie Kawashima  "The importance of head movements for museum guide robots"

  • Kerstin Fischer "On the Relationship between Recipient Design and Alignment in HCI"

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