Scripting Humour in Conversational Agents: Improvisation and Emergence of Humorous Interchanges

By Michael M. Meany and Tom Clark.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper describes a creative project that will develop a pair of online computer-based conversational agents to interact as ‘comedian’ and ‘straight man’. The project will interrogate the scriptwriting process as it is applied in a new media environment at the confluence of human and non-human agency. In the context of this paper the term ‘scriptwriter’ carries two inter-related definitions: first, as a producer and crafter of dialogue for a character; and second, as a developer of computer script to guide the interactions of the conversational agents. It can be argued that the scriptwriter (in both guises) is part of a larger system of circular causality and is thus embedded within structures that both constrain and enable their actions (Boden 1994, 2004; Bourdieu 1993; Giddens 1979) and makes intentional choices to achieve particular aims or outcomes. The interaction of the conversational agents is a result of a creative practice that allows for the emergence of improvised responses based on scripted dialogue choices. This paper will explore the inter-related issues of scriptwriting, emergence, and improvisation in a new media environment.

Keywords: New Media, Conversational Agents, Artificial Intelligence, Emergence, Humour, Scriptwriting

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.225-236. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 628.479KB).

Dr. Michael M. Meany

Lecturer, School of Design, Communication and IT, The University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Michael Meany is a lecturer in communication at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Michael’s background includes careers as a freelance writer; a typesetter and publication designer; and as a playwright. From these varied careers, Michael brings to his research an eclectic mix of skills. His research interests include: script writing, virtual environments and narrative/interactive media design.

Dr. Tom Clark

Lecturer, School of Communication, Culture, and Languages, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tom Clark has worked in a range of fields, including political advisory roles and studies in medieval Germanic poetry. He completed his PhD in the Department of English at the University of Sydney, awarded in 2003, which comprised a study of irony in the Old English poem Beowulf. He has published refereed articles on higher education policy, as well as a monograph version of his PhD thesis. He is currently developing a comparative international research project to examine improvised and semi-improvised public language in the fields of sport, politics, business, and satire.

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