We are surrounded by AI, computer games, robots, and conversational assistants. Discussions about their convenience or the ethical implications of incorporating them into our daily lives seem to be everywhere, but until recently there were not many resources that people interested in human-computer communication could use as a singular canonical reference. Noticing this, Rhonda N. McEwen, president and vice-chancellor of Victoria University and cross-appointed faculty at the IHPST, decided to “put together a handbook that would become the touchstone for anyone doing work in this space or interested in any way,” along with her colleagues Steve Jones (University of Illinois, Chicago) and Andrea L. Guzman (Northern Illinois University)
As part of their work as editors, they gathered 65 articles from multiple disciplines written by researchers from all over the world: “We decided right away that it had to be a global [book]” Dr. McEwen mentions, “it had to be. It had to get voices outside of North America […] we very intentionally sought out the best in the fields outside of the spaces we always hear from. So, we have chapters from people who are from or write about South America, we have people who are from or write about Asia, Australia, as well, we have Europe covered, we have people who have interest in Africa.” This variety of voices seeks to connect scholars from different specialties who have been working on these topics, but often in isolation: “this handbook offers also a chance to speak to each other […] we have people coming in from art history, we have people who are looking at space exploration in the book. So, this is a chance not just for other people, but actually, for people who are leading their fields inside, to look at how other people are looking at the same topic” McEwen says.
One of the many strengths of this collective effort is its intent to reach out to an extensive audience inside and outside university life: “We are talking about journalists who know how these things have been impacting their field, we're talking about people who are in education, teaching high school and lower middle schools, [also] government agencies who are coming up with policy, they are interested in how we are thinking through these topics.”
Even when we are witnessing a growing interest in technology, with machines often amazing us with new developments, everything has a history: “People like to think everything is brand new, ‘this is the newest thing we've ever seen,’ and there are seeds of that, that do have a history in some of our human past that we need to bring to the fore,” McEwen mentions. This is one of the reasons the first section of the book is devoted to exploring Histories and Trajectories, showing the role history and humanities have had in the analysis of human-machine communication: “They are fundamental, that is why they are right at the top of the book […] in a way they underpin where we are headed, where we are, and where we are going,” explains Professor McEwen. The other three sections deal with approaches, methods, concepts, contexts, technologies, and applications. Some of the many topics readers will find in the table of contents are human-machine communication and its association with love and sex, gender, literature, philosophy, religion, privacy, marketing, ethics, and healthcare.