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Friday, May 13 • 11:00am - 11:15am
The Eliza Effect and Epistemic Fractures in Mixed Reality Interfaces with A.I. Agents

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The paper will examine strategies of evoking an affective response in interactions with machinic intelligence presented in visual, textual and mixed reality forms. Particularly, I will consider the effect of psychological mechanisms of projection and recognition in the context of algorithmic procedures in digital simulation and translation. Mixed reality interfaces - where the 'real' embodied reactions are blended with the 'virtual' datascope - seem to be especially relevant material to explore the productive difference between the representational and performative regimes of engagement with data, as well as the role of software in shifting these regimes. I will show how the issues of projection and illusion of reciprocity that were raised already in the 1960s by Joseph Weizenbaum's chat bot Eliza, have sustained though contemporary practices engaging "intelligent agents".

I will base my analysis on several artistic examples: the interactive video installations "Chameleon" by Tina Gonsalves that explore emotional contagion through technologies of facial expression recognition; the net-art project "psychossensation.xyz" by Ubermorgen; and a recent psychotherapy smartphone application, “Karen," by Blast Theory. In each instance, the user is tricked into an eerily personalized interaction with a software-driven, fictionalized character/figure established through text (“phychossensation") and video ("Chameleon", "Karen"). The questions can be intrusive and overly intimate, and the gazes piercing and emotionally disturbing; yet both are generated as a response to the user’s own reactions and behavioral data, e.g. phone usage. The programs, such as "Karen", morphs to fit the user's everyday life, although pushing the legitimate boundaries and conventions of an interaction with a human life-coach. The resultant feeling oscillates between a suspicious "how do they know?" and a desire to explore the limits of one's vulnerability. This is despite (or due to) the knowledge that the conversation happens mostly within oneself, with a productive illusion of an intelligent and sensitive interlocutor. These exchanges feel unsutured, almost natural - or, as natural and honest as the imagined agency on the other side appears to “feel."


Friday May 13, 2016 11:00am - 11:15am MST
COOR L1-84 975 S Myrtle Ave Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 85281
  Archives and Collections, Long paper
  • Session Location COOR L1-84