PhD Thesis Proposal: Samantha Reig, "Characterizing Agent Identities as Mediators Among Individuals, Embodiments, and Services"

Samantha Reig

Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - 3:00pm
Hybrid event: NSH 3305 + Zoom details to follow

Jodi Forlizzi (Co-chair), Carnegie Mellon University
Aaron Steinfeld (Co-chair), Carnegie Mellon University
Geoff Kaufman, Carnegie Mellon University
Terrence Fong, NASA Ames Research Center

With the ongoing innovation of intelligent systems that coordinate and collaborate with humans, it becomes increasingly important to understand how interactions should be designed to support effective communication, social norms, and appropriately calibrated trust. These intelligent systems are becoming less and less constrained to single embodiments: voice-activated agents that are typically embodied in smart speakers, for example, can interact with users through multiple platforms and control multiple devices in a shared space. As researchers and designers explore the potential for agents to serve as interactive interfaces to complex systems, they grapple with questions of how technical constraints and social context might impact aspects of agents' design and use. These aspects include possibilities for and effects of physical design, how agents should handle complex ethical and interpersonal constructs like social privacy (should a smart home agent keep secrets?), how they might be mentally modeled (are they tools, collaborators, or something else?), and what their roles and responsibilities are among genuine social players.

I argue that agent identities can play a mediating role in shaping the interactions that are situated in these complex and integrated contexts, as well as their outcomes. By integrating theoretical, empirical, and design work on agent identity, smart environments, and technology mediation, I formulate a preliminary conceptual model of agent identity as a mediating force among individuals, embodiments, and services. Whereas prior work has primarily focused on dyadic interactions and relationships in this model, my work surfaces new knowledge about dyadic and triadic relationships. In this dissertation, I discuss several studies that explored possible future designs for agent identities as service touchpoints, manipulated agent identity in a human-robot collaboration setting, and examined the role of embodiment in interactions between agents and ancillary users. The work that I have done with my colleagues to date has revealed novel insights that aid in mapping the space of human-agent interactions in complex social and physical environments and informing the model of agent identity as a mediator. My proposed work has two aims: (1) to empirically validate relationships among some of the variables in this space that have been probed by our past work (i.e., the impact of agent affiliation and expertise on humans’ trust, social perceptions, and performance), and (2) to identify new directions for agent technologies as mediators in long-term relationships among individuals.

Draft document:
Queenie Kravitz

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