Language shapes our thinking, our relationships, our sense of self. Conversation connects us in powerful, intimate, and often unconscious ways. Jonathan Foster explains why, as we design for natural language interactions and more humanlike digital experiences, language—as design material, conversation, and design canvas—reveals ethical challenges we couldn’t encounter with GUI-powered experiences.
Simply put, designers cannot tell people what to say or how to say it, and yet we need to ensure our products don’t perpetuate bad behavior. We need a new kind of design thinking around AI.
Jonathan Foster is the principal content experiences manager at Microsoft, where he leads the Windows and content intelligence writing team. Their work includes UX writing, designing personality and voice within products and experiences, and authoring and designing conversational interactions for products and experiences. He built the writing team for Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana for the US and international markets, which focused on the development of Cortana’s personality while crafting fun, challenging dialogue. They’re now expanding upon this knowledge to create a personality catalogue for Microsoft’s Bot framework and train a deep neural net conversational model to support those personalities. Jonathan started out in film and television writing screenplays and working in development. He was eventually drawn away from Hollywood by the true innovative spirit of the tech industry, starting with an interactive storytelling project that was honored by the Sundance Film Festival.
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