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Conversations with a Computer (2008) - Daniel Everett

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Contained within the operating system of Mac computers is a rudimentary electronic psychotherapist program. Meant to simulate a Rogerian therapist, it engages the participant in a cyclical conversation by taking his or her statements and roughly reconfiguring them into questions. I met with this program three times a week for a month in order to discuss my fear that I was disappearing completely. These are three stills from our conversations.

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nick Feb. 12 2009 17:49Reply

Um, this is nothing new; the piece comes from using ELIZA, the well-known program written by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966 and available widely since then. I presume the artist is using the version that is bundled with emacs, a text-editor (and much more) that is available in all standard distributions of Unix/Linux, of which Mac OS X is one. Sherry Turkle has written extensively (in the 1980s and 1990s) about people's experiences with such computer programs; see The Second Self and Life on the Screen.

John Feb. 13 2009 01:15Reply

That's like saying photography is nothing new because you know it was made with a camera or because people have photographed in the past. We are all super impressed that you know what program the artist used, but come on, what an asinine comment.

nick Feb. 17 2009 17:21Reply

No, the comment is about dehistoricizing a practice that already succumbs to that enough via standard discourse. I would have appreciated comment by the editors about how this was related to earlier work and how it follows in a decades-long tradition—and is not something that is just "discovered" in the "operating system of Mac computers". I am critiquing more the editorial decision to feature the work, absent any commentary about it, and accepting the artist's words as providing enough context, rather than the work itself—if my intent was not clear.

Vijay Pattisapu March 4 2009 16:40Reply

Compare Daniel Everett talking to the Other with the other Daniel Everett talking to the other Other.

Eric Dymond March 4 2009 23:38Reply

the perl module Chatbot::ELiza uses the same algorithm, and it's old stuff, how does the work build on that?http://www.edymond.com/cgi-bin/psych.cgi

Eric Dymond March 4 2009 23:41Reply


really trivial

Bob Lormor April 5 2009 14:39Reply

Hmm. Well, this program would save you about 100 bucks an hour by talking to it instead of a human therapist, who will ask you the same questions. lol

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