Societal Issues and User Experience and Engagement Dominated Human-Machine Communication Research Over the Past Decade
The field of human-machine communication (HMC) has grown exponentially over the past 10 years with the advancement of new artificial intelligence technology. Research on HMC, which has become increasingly interdisciplinary, has also exploded focusing on both the technology itself and the implications for society.
University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications doctoral students Heidi Makady and Fanjue Liu wanted to explore the types of HMC research being conducted globally to identify the field’s key trends to advance its research agenda and the pathway for future research directions. The authors examined 444 peer-reviewed studies published between 2010-2021 across publications focusing on communication and media technologies with the highest impact factor.
Their study found an emphasis on critical HMC issues to users and society, such as privacy disclosure, moral violation, and social media messages with interest in perceptions, attitudes, and impacts. Studies investigating a specific technology, e.g., robots, virtual agents, or smart speakers, tended to emphasize users’ experience, engagement, interaction, and persuasion more than users’ concerns or technology implications. Themes related to those two aspects gained more attention from communication journals suggesting the field’s progressive awareness of the need to understand critical public and societal concerns to facilitate pathways for technology policy actions.
The researchers also found that funding for HMC studies came primarily from governments and universities, with only a limited share of industry-sponsored studies or funding from private and public sectors. Studies led by entities affiliated with communication were among top-funded disciplines signaling a trend supporting and funding social science research on an equal footing to STEM research.”
The original paper, “The Status of Human-Machine Communication Research: A Decade of Publication Trends Across Top-Ranking Journals,” was published in Human-Computer Interaction: Theoretical Approaches and Design Methods presented at the 24th HCI International Conference, HCII 2022.