Without the added benefit of tone and inflection, and reduced to the sterile plane of SMS window, the experience is a coefficient of writing more than speech.
The so-called Artificial Conversational Entity pops up in a variety of places offering a helping hand mostly in on-line transactions by way of text dialogue.
(The anonymity of female telephone operator suggests the vaguely licentious aura attributed to stewardesses, women disengaged from place.) Julie, Amtrak’s automated voice response agent since 2002, is endlessly patient, helpful, reassuring, inquisitive. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that…” her voice dripping apology.
She’s thrilled when she makes the connection – “Great! (Julie is voiced by the real-world Julie Seitter working in a recording studio in the basement of her home in suburban Massachusetts.) This dynamic between voice and listener was played out memorably in the 1971 film adaptation of Michael Chrichton’s virus-from-outerspace thriller , civilian doctor, Mark Hall (James Hall) is greeted by the reassuring, mellifluous, and highly-sexualized, voice on his intercom. This emerging disembodied voice is increasingly artificial, algorithmic rather than prerecorded.
Design then is the counter-form of some other, often inchoate, want.
So designers create endless mini-Frankensteins, molded ostensibly to serve, while in actuality incarnating, and disseminating, the desire of their creator.
Consider the familiar example of the , Fritz Lang's 1927 proto-sci-fi classic.
Apparently the anonymous programmer of the on-line chatbot is heavily influenced by the femininity of soft-core porn and has programmed his (only a man could conceive of such a creature) army of airheads with a vocabulary ladened with ’s punctuated with a dizzying panoply of emoticons.
She’s a babe spun from code with a pornstar handle – think Sexy Kitten or Sultry Sarah – senselessly babbling in algorithmic banalities.
If such a design is emblematic of both the creator and the consumer, the story the on-line chatbot reveals about both him and us is utterly depressing.