Personal space is a human’s imaginary system of precaution and an important concept for exploring territoriality, but between humans and technology because machinic agencies transfer, relocate, enact and reenact territorially. Literatures of territoriality, violence and affect are uniquely brought together, with chatbots as the research object to argue that their ongoing development as artificial agents, and the ambiguity of violence they can engender, have broader ramifications for a socio-technical research programme. These literatures help to understand the interrelation of virtual and actual spatiality relevant to research involving chatrooms and internet forums, automated systems and processes, as well as human and machine agencies; because all of these spaces, methods and agencies involve the personal sphere.
The thesis is an ethical tale of cruel techno-science that is performed through conceptualisations from the creative arts, constituting a PhD by practice. This thesis chronicles four chatbots, taking into account interventions made in fine art, design, fiction and film that are omitted from a history of agent technology. The thesis re-interprets Edward Hall’s work on proxemics, personal space and territoriality, using techniques of the bricoleur and rudiments (an undeveloped and speculative method of practice), to understand chatbot techniques such as the pick-up, their entrapment logics, their repetitions of hateful speech, their nonsense talk (including how they disorientate spatial metaphors), as well as how developers switch on and off their learning functionality. Semi-structured interviews and online forum postings with chatbot developers were used to expand and reflect on the rudimentary method.
To urge that this project is timely is itself a statement of anxiety. Chatbots can manipulate, exceed, and exhaust a human understanding of both space and time. Violence between humans and machines in online and offline spaces is explored as an interweaving of agency and spatiality. A series of rudiments were used to probe empirical experiments such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma (Tucker, 1950). The spatial metaphors of confinement as a parable of entrapment, are revealed within that logic and that of chatbots. The ‘Obedience to Authority’ experiments (Milgram, 1961) were used to reflect on the roles played by machines which are then reflected into a discussion of chatbots and the experiments done in and around them. The agency of the experimenter was revealed in the machine as evidenced with chatbots which has ethical ramifications. The argument of personal space is widened to include the ways machinic territoriality and its violence impacts on our ways of living together both in the private spheres of our computers and homes, as well as in state-regulated conditions (Directive-3, 2003). The misanthropic aspects of chatbot design are reflected through the methodology of designing out of fear. I argue that personal spaces create misanthropic design imperatives, methods and ways of living. Furthermore, the technological agencies of personal spaces have a confining impact on the transient spaces of the non-places in a wider discussion of the lift, chatroom and car. The violent origins of the chatbot are linked to various imaginings of impending disaster through visualisations, supported by case studies in fiction to look at the resonance of how anxiety transformed into terror when considering the affects of violence.