Many users of the Internet are aware of bots: automated programs that work behind the scenes to come up with search suggestions, check the weather, filter emails, or clean up Wikipedia entries. More recently, a new software robot has been making its presence felt in social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter – the socialbot. However, unlike other bots, socialbots are built to appear human. While a weatherbot will tell you if it's sunny and a spambot will incessantly peddle Viagra, socialbots will ask you questions, have conversations, like your posts, retweet you, and become your friend. All the while, if they're well-programmed, you won't know that you're tweeting and friending with a robot.
Who benefits from the use of software robots? Who loses? Does a bot deserve rights? Who pulls the strings of these bots? Who has the right to know what about them? What does it mean to be intelligent? What does it mean to be a friend? Socialbots and Their Friends: Digital Media and the Automation of Sociality is one of the first academic collections to critically consider the socialbot and tackle these pressing questions.
Table of Contents
1. Socialbots and Their Friends
2. The Blurring Test
3. The socialization of early Internet bots: IRC and the ecology of human-robot interactions online
4. Making AI Safe for Humans: A Conversation With Siri
5. Embodied Conversational Agents as Social Actors? Sociological Considerations on the Change of Human-Machine Relations in Online Environments
6. Contested play: The culture and politics of reddit bots
7. Semi-autonomous fan fiction: Japanese character bots and nonhuman affect
8. Speculations on the Sociality of Socialbots
9. Authenticity by Design: Reflections on researching, designing and teaching Socialbots
10. Do Socialbots Dream of Popping the Filter Bubble? The role of socialbots in promoting participatory democracy in social media
11. Rationalizing Sociality: An Unfinished Script for Socialbots
12. The Other Question: Socialbots and the Question of Ethics
Robert W. Gehl is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah, and the author of Reverse Engineering Social Media (2014, Temple University Press). His research draws on science and technology studies, software studies, and critical/cultural studies and focuses on the intersections between technology, subjectivity, and practice.
Maria Bakardjieva is professor of communication at the University of Calgary, Canada, and the author of Internet Society: The Internet in Everyday Life (2005, Sage). Her research has examined Internet use practices across different social and cultural context with a focus on users’ active appropriation of new media and on the phenomenology of digital communication.
"Socialbots and Their Friends is an exciting and timely book that accompanies the reader through the fascinating paths of a particular innovation: the socialbot. This collection represents a major scholarly work and offers a rich compendium of insights into why today’s societies are affected by various processes of the automation of sociability." –Leopoldina Fortunati, University of Udine, Italy