Abstract Shauna Concannon 27 March 2019

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Title: "Alexa, are you for real?": Epistemic Status in Human-Agent Dialogues

Abstract: Intelligent conversational agents such as Siri and Alexa are prototypical examples of Artificially Intelligent Communication Technologies, and the societal potentialities of such systems are enormous. In the next 5–10 years, a generation of even more sophisticated Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) will emerge, and they will increasingly influence all aspects of our lives, from how we turn the heating on and off, to how we encounter news stories and vote in national elections. Crucially, our interactions with these devices will be predominantly language-based. Misinformation in the current digital landscape has become a powerful tool for influencing political events and obfuscating facts in the public sphere. While computational approaches for identifying and minimising the spread of misinformation online are emerging, these are largely text based. How suitable are such approaches for voice interfaces and dialogue based systems? How are trustworthiness and credibility communicated in dialogue? The linguistic marking of evidentiality and epistemic status are key resources that listeners, readers and interactants rely upon to assess how newsworthy and trustworthy they deem an utterance. In this talk I will outline how research on evidentiality and epistemic authority can inform an approach for examining the sociological implications of how information is processed and circulated in society.