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Re: [xmca] Friesen Article: question on kinds of talk analysis

David, I like your message in a bottle metaphor. I agree that a computer can be liked to a complex collection of messages in bottles. In this sense, any text including any form of automatic communication such as a chatbot is a kind of message in a bottle. I think you make a very good point that the message in the bottle - and the bottle - and any labels on the bottle - need to be sorted out. And as you also point out, a picture or other recording of a message in a labeled bottle is not the same thing as a message, a label or a bottle.

Reminding us to look for the social relations that **always** stand behind and emanate through messages, labels and containers is one of the important contributions that I see CHAT making.

Do you think it might be possible for CHAT methodology and the techniques of conversation analysis to be applied in combination in such a way that this is not lost?

- Steve

On May 19, 2009, at 6:39 PM, David Kellogg wrote:


That caught my eye too. Mike says somewhere...on a different thread, actually...something to the effect that when a person talks to a machine, or rather, as I like to say, pretends to be talking to a machine pretending to be a person, there is actual communication going on, because the people who built the machine are using the machine to communicate with the person who is pretending to talk to a machine pretending to be a person.

That's true, but it's not dialogic communication. When you pick up a message in a bottle on a beach, both the message and the bottle communicate something. But that thing is not the same thing. There is a very big difference between communicating with a person writing a message who knows you have a mind and assumes that you too want to comunicate with him or her and producing a bottle and printing a label for entirely different purposes.

It's not just that exchanging commodities is a fundamentally different human activity from exchanging information. It presupposes a very different (and higher) theory of mind. It presupposes empathy.

Most "discourse analysis" is really not discourse analysis at all. It's the analysis of TEXTS, the recordings made of live discourse. This is really a little like analyzing a message in a bottle by looking at the bottle.

Real discourse analysis has to start out from the point of view that texts do not communicate; people do. Conversation analysis, for all its phonological fetishism and its ethnomethodological pretensions, is a definite step in the right direction.

But conversation analysis imagines that you can analyze a stretch of conversation without ANY outside science, that the decoding procedures are ALL available in the interaction itself to the participants themselves. I think Marxists know better; we know that a lot of the most important social relations in an interaction are hidden to even the most penetrating scientific eyes.

For example! The problem with Friesen's article is that it really doesn't come to grips with the ultimate AIM of phone trees, chatbots, and similar. Given the lay of the social environment, I think that the ultimate aim can ONLY be (like Obama's plans for "health care reform") the further hollowing out of the middle class. The idea is that somewhere, somehow, the use of "labor saving" technologies will lead to lower costs and not just higher unemployment. We've been down THAT road before.

Accept no substitutes for human empathy: see if your phone tree/ chatbot will recognize a belch.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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