Bot of conviction: transforming our conversations about the past

Can a chatbot enable us to change our conceptions about the past, to be critically reflective, to take action on the world today?

Provoking questions - would you bury someone you care about under your bed?
An example of a question posed by our Bot of Conviction to provoke conversation about the human past. For more info, download our CHI 2019 paper

After two years of development, I’m really excited to announce that our co-authored paper (co-authored by a majority female team, no less!) for CHI 2019 has been published and was presented by the incredible Maria Roussou in Glasgow yesterday. The full-text of the paper is freely downloadable from the ACM Digital Library. And especially excitingly, our EMOTIVE communications collaborator Karolina Badzmierowska from NOHO, made this little teaser video to briefly introduce you to the concept behind the project, and to pique your interest.

With all this available online, I’ll just say here that we’ve been inspired by the work of Mark SampleShawn Graham, and others, and thus have experimented with means to provoke people (in constructive fashion) to question and act responsibly on their values, beliefs and prejudices. I’ve long been interested in the power of dialogue to bring people together – and to offer the means by which change can be articulated and enacted – and I continue to be surprised at the relative lack of engagement with genuine dialogue between human beings in relation to heritage (here dialogue is understood as distinctly different from discussion, focused on two or more individuals actively and explicitly sharing experiences, challenging presumptions, and exploring others’ perspectives in order to build alliances and democracy).

We have various publications forthcoming on the topic of dialogue where we review some of the fabulous work of the US National Park Service, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, and of scholars like Nicole Deufel. Hence I won’t get into the details here, but in projects spearheaded by Angeliki Tzouganatou, Sierra McKinney, Sophia Mirashrafi and Katrina Gargett, we’ve been able to explore dialogical interventions with heritage in various ways (at heritage sites, in classrooms, at home using your own devices), creating a solid foundation for us to provide recommendations and guidance for others wishing to explore facilitated dialogue in their own work.

Our Bot of Conviction, which we fondly call ChatÇat, is one of the first case studies that we launched to explore how a simple rules-based bot might be designed to foster challenging – but productive – forms of communication and reflection. We’ve been lucky to have had incredible support from my colleagues at Çatalhöyük, and to be able to draw on the rich archaeological finds from the site –  which have collectively allowed us to seed our bot with complex questions around common human concerns: death, privacy, equality, power, and more.

We hope you might browse our work, provide us with constructive comments, and stay tuned for further publications on these topics. Happy reading!

PLEASE CITE AS: Roussou, M., Perry, S., Katifori, A., Vassos, S., Tzouganatou, A., McKinney, S. (2019) Transformation through Provocation? Designing a ‘Bot of Conviction’ to Challenge Conceptions and Evoke Critical Reflection. In CHI ’19 Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Glasgow, Scotland, 4-9 May. New York: ACM. Paper No. 627.

Download our CHI 2019 paper from https://saraperry.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/roussou_et_al_2019_chipaper627.pdf
Download our CHI 2019 paper from https://saraperry.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/roussou_et_al_2019_chipaper627.pdf