Conversational Informatics: An Engineering Approach

W.R. Howard (Computer Science International, Dinslaken, Germany)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 17 June 2008




Howard, W.R. (2008), "Conversational Informatics: An Engineering Approach", Kybernetes, Vol. 37 No. 6, pp. 832-833.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Although it has taken many decades of scientific advancement we are slowly reaching a point where it is acceptable to compile books that are interdisciplinary in their approach to their subject. Not so long ago physics books were about the physics approach to the many problems to be tackled. Similarly, engineers were reluctant to use the results of researches in biology and other fields that had a bearing on their work. Now, however, transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies are becoming common place. Studies in cybernetics must surely have helped change traditional “one‐subject” approaches to the problems we face in the modern world.

This book edited by Toyoaki Nishida, is therefore particularly welcome although its title should be changed so that “engineering” is replaced by “interdisciplinary”. It does begin with an introduction to conversational informatics that is truly interdisciplinary and highlights the way in which an integrated scientific approach is needed if we are to improve our ability to study conversation and make any worthwhile progress.

The editor aims to examine human behavior from the standpoint of designing conversational artifacts that may be able to interact with humans in a meaningful way. To study this effectively a variety of subjects must be called on to provide the necessary understanding of the challenge and also to make available the required tools. In consequence he covers many areas that have proved fruitful including basic psychology and linguistics. The field of human‐machine interaction is included. What started as man‐machine interaction or interface has now become human‐machine or human‐computer interface, with many present researchers failing to realise that work in this field has been progressing for some four decades. The editor of this book obviously has failed to appreciate that much of this research has from its initiation been multidisciplinary. By covering the topics that included conversational artifacts conversational environment design, conversational content and also the measurement, analysis and modelling of conversation the most important research topics were tackled. This was done by linking topics and current researches in an enlightened and investigative way. The subject of the book is a fascinating one which sees human behavior and changing technologies interacting in a society that is challenged by the ensuing actions and interactions. This book has contributed to the understanding of this complex phenomena and is one that is wellworth reading before it is, like so many texts, superceeded by yet more technological change which will once again alter our approach to conversational informatics.

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