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Facing the unexpected: field notes from the limits of net discourse

Leena Saarinen, MA in New Media, Cultural Usability seminar, UIAH Media Lab 2001

Note! This article is a draft, do not quote or cite. Updated version is due on May 5, 2001.


There is something in bots that makes them to be easily mistaken as humans, and there is something "bottish" about humans in cyberspace. Chatterbots can provoke strong emotional responses in users as individuals and as members of a group. This is why chatterbots may also be used in interventions to understand communication in virtual communities. My paper approaches the limits of net discourse from two directions. As designer of chatterbots I will describe how bots affect the community, sometimes making the community visible to itself. As participant in the Palace virtual communities, I will analyze two incidents that shattered the "rhetorical vision" of one particular virtual community, Xenapalace. The observations will trace some characteristics of new interactive genres of entertainment and communication.