Re/framing virtual conversational partners: A feminist critique and tentative move towards a new design paradigm


A major research agenda in HCI is the development of believable agents. Because believability has become linked to gendered personi?cation, designers have relied on stereotypes for both the physical rendering and verbal responses of these agents. Conversational agents are even scripted to handle “abuse” in stereotypical ways. Such scripting, however, often escalates the abuse. While the demand for anthropomorphized agents may necessitate a reliance on bodily stereotypes, the verbal responses of the agents need not be scripted according to gendered expectations. We explore the design of con-versational agents as a rhetorical enterprise that can deconstruct overtly gen-dered patterns of interaction.

Keywords Feminist HCI; Embodied conversational agents; Agent abuse  Rhetoric; Ethos; Anthropomorphism; Personi?ed interface.

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