In 2016, Microsoft launched Tay, an experimental artificial intelligence chat bot. Learning from interactions with Twitter users, Tay was shut down after one day because of its obscene and inflammatory tweets. This article uses the case of Tay to re-examine theories of agency. How did users view the personality and actions of an artificial intelligence chat bot when interacting with Tay on Twitter? Using phenomenological research methods and pragmatic approaches to agency, we look at what people said about Tay to study how they imagine and interact with emerging technologies and to show the limitations of our current theories of agency for describing communication in these settings. We show how different qualities of agency, different expectations for technologies, and different capacities for affordance emerge in the interactions between people and artificial intelligence. We argue that a perspective of “symbiotic agency”—informed by the imagined affordances of emerging technology—is required to really understand the collapse of Tay.

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Neff, G., & Nagy, P. (2016). Automation, Algorithms, and Politics| Talking to Bots: Symbiotic Agency and the Case of Tay. International Journal Of Communication, 10, 17. Retrieved from http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/6277/1804

 


Note: This post was originally published on the Political Bots research blog on . It might have been updated since then in its original location. The post gives the views of the author(s), and not necessarily the position of the Oxford Internet Institute.