Conversational futures: Emancipating conversational interactions for futures worth wanting

Minha Lee, Renee Noortman, Cristina Zaga, Alain Starke, Gijs Huisman, Kristina Andersen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


We present a vision for conversational user interfaces (CUIs) as probes for speculating with, rather than as objects to speculate about. Popular CUIs, e.g., Alexa, are changing the way we converse, narrate, and imagine the world(s) to come. Yet, current conversational interactions normatively may promote non-desirable ends, delivering a restricted range of request-response interactions with sexist and digital colonialist tendencies. Our critical design approach envisions alternatives by considering how future voices can reside in CUIs as enabling probes. We present novel explorations that illustrate the potential of CUIs as critical design material, by critiquing present norms and conversing with imaginary species. As micro-level interventions, we show that conversations with diverse futures through CUIs can persuade us to critically shape our discourse on macro-scale concerns of the present, e.g., sustainability. We refect on how conversational interactions with pluralistic, imagined futures can contribute to how being human stands to change.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCHI 2021 - Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Subtitle of host publicationMaking Waves, Combining Strengths
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
ISBN (Electronic)9781450380966
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2021
EventConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2021 - Virtual Conference
Duration: 8 May 202113 May 2021


ConferenceConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2021
Abbreviated titleCHI 2021
CityVirtual Conference


  • Conversational user interfaces
  • Critical design
  • Design fction
  • Futuring
  • Speculative design


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