Abuse: the darker side of human-computer interaction


There seems to be something innate in the human/computer relationship that brings out the dark side of human behaviour. Anecdotal evidence suggests that of the utterances made to chat-bots or embodied conversational agents (ECA) in public places, 20-30% are abusive. Why is that? Is it simply that a quarter of the human population are 'sick' and find abusing a machine to be in some way therapeutic? If so, it says something about human nature that is quite disturbing and in need of further study. Perhaps the phenomena is directly caused by a new technology. In the early days of computer-mediated communication there was a tendency for people to abuse each other, but this has become far less common. Will the extent to which people abuse ECAs just naturally become a thing of the past? The Turing Test has also had a considerable influence on appropriate behaviour when talking to a computer. To what extent is abuse simply a way people test the limits of a conversational agent? Perhaps the problem is one of design: the aesthetics of everyday things is key to their success, and perhaps abuse is simply one end of a continuum of the 'aesthetics' of interactive things with human-like behaviour. The extent to which abuse occurs seems to indicate something fundamental about the way humans interact. Is abuse simply the most noticeable phenomena connected to something fundamental in the way we humans communicate?

The purpose of this workshop is to bring together engineers, artists and scientists who have encountered this phenomenon, who might have given some thought to why and how it happens, and have some ideas on how pro-active, agent-based interfaces, typified by chat-bots or ECAs, should respond to abuse.

[full paper]