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Notes with respect to intention


A recurring theme in theorizing about human-computer interaction is the duality of the following two views on the computer:

  1. Computer-as-Tool
  2. Computer-as-Dialogue-Partner
Ad 1. In this view, the intention (more simply, the goal-directed behavior) is assumed to be present in the human user, whereas the machine is a passive tool, transparent to a high degree, and merely supportive with respect to the human goals. This is in fact the status of most current applications, and is also the acclaimed basic philosophy by well-known researchers in the field of human-computer interaction (e.g., [310]). In fact, a trend is present from earlier anthropomorphizing error messages and dialogue fragments, towards more neutral, tool-like behavior. Initial experimental designs of the now well-known teller machines displayed anthropomorphic announcements like ``How are you today, can I help you?'', a method which in practice has been quickly replaced by more formal, brief texts and menus.

Ad 2. Alternatively, there is a trend, in which goal-oriented and intentional behavior is explicitly introduced in so-called intelligent agentsgif, which behave according to a logic containing ``beliefs'' about the world and about the goals of the user. Synergistic with this trend is the quickly growing capability with which human-like output (speech, faces, movement) can be more or less faithfully produced by computers. Critics of this latter approach pejoratively call it ``animism'' and point out that user-friendly design is much more helped by giving the user the idea that he/she is fully in control of the situation, rather than having to negotiate with a potentially uncooperative anthropomorphic servant. However, the anthropomorphic dialogue may also be compelling, and the metaphors of ``partner'', ``colleague'' or ``coach'' may be used to make clear to the user what are the characteristics of the dialogue [344], in terms of protocol, attitude, and etiquette.

Rather than deciding a priori for either one of these basic interface philosophies, different types of interaction and different application conditions must be defined within this project which are suited for either the Computer-as-Tool or the Computer-as-Dialogue-Partner approach, possibly also combining aspects of both approaches where possible. As an example: Whereas it may be acceptable to a user to organize the planning of daily activities in a dialogue with an anthropomorphical partner, it is equally unacceptable to use a human-style dialogue in detailed low-level aspects of text editing or computer programming.

Within the project of the concepts introduced here will be substantially refined.

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Next: Topics which had Up: Additional Notes and Previous: An extra information

Esprit Project 8579/MIAMI (Schomaker et al., '95)
Thu May 18 16:00:17 MET DST 1995