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If software is narrative: Joseph Weizenbaum, artificial intelligence, and the biographies of ELIZA

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journal contribution
posted on 21.09.2018 by Simone Natale
Software is usually studied in terms of the changes triggered by its operations in the material world. Yet, to understand its social and cultural impact, one needs to examine also the different narratives that circulate about it. Software’s opacity, in fact, makes it prone to being translated into a plurality of narratives that help people make sense of its functioning and presence. Drawing from the case of Joseph Weizenbaum’s ELIZA, widely considered the first chatbot ever created, this paper proposes a theoretical framework based on the concept of “biographies of media” to illuminate the dynamics and implications of software’s discursive life. The case of ELIZA is particularly relevant in this regard because it became the center of competing narratives, whose trajectories transcended the actual functioning of this program and shaped key controversies about the implications of computing and AI.

History

School

  • Social Sciences

Department

  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Published in

New Media and Society

Citation

NATALE, S., 2018. If software is narrative: Joseph Weizenbaum, artificial intelligence, and the biographies of ELIZA. New Media and Society, 21 (3), pp.712-728.

Publisher

© The Author. Published by SAGE Publications

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Acceptance date

13/09/2018

Publication date

2018-10-15

Notes

This paper was published in the journal New Media and Society and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444818804980.

ISSN

1461-4448

eISSN

1461-7315

Language

en

Exports