How do Real People Communicate with Virtual Partners?

Herbert H. Clark

Disembodied language is language that is not being produced by an actual speaker at the moment it is being interpreted. That type of language is all around us--as written language and mechanized speech--and yet it is poorly understood. My proposal is that we interpret disembodied language in two layers of coordinated activity. In the first layer, we join the producer of the disembodied language in creating a pretense. In the second layer, which represents that joint pretense, we communicate with a virtual partner. I argue that layering like this is recruited whenever we interpret forms of disembodied communication in computers.

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