Theory and Practice in Discourse and Dialogue for Interactive Systems
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Assignment 1
Due: September 28

Part I: Test a Telephony Spoken Dialogue System

Call the Amtrack telephony dialogue system (1-800-USA-RAIL) and write about your experience. Talk about it in the context of what was discussed in class.
Hand in: 1 paragraph

Part II: Examine naturally occuring spoken discourse

Collect a sample of naturally occurring spoken discourse. "Naturally-occurring" can be broadly construed to include radio or talk shows, children's play, radio or TV news items, spontaneous or scripted storytelling, classroom interactions, task-oriented conversations, classroom lectures, etc. By "collect" we mean make video recordings (unless absolutely impossible to do and audio recording is your only option). You should collect a minimum of 15 minutes, and then transcribe at least 5 continuous minutes (usually the middle of the discourse is the most natural). By "transcribe" we mean you should make a record on paper of what you saw/heard --a good enough record so that when we read the transcript, we know what went on (read the Schiffrin appendix before doing this. You will probably want to use one of her methods, or you will have to justify why you didn't). 

The point is to push you to think about what discourse is and what makes it hard to model discourse in a computational system. You may want to have an interactive system in mind when you choose your sample.  Think about how a computer could replace a participant in the discourse.  Supposing that you had perfect word recognition, what are the most challenging issues in processing the discourse? Are some of these challenges specific to the sample domain you chose? Another point is to think about what makes a sufficient record of discourse: how do you turn a speech event into an on-paper transcript? What parameters need to be transcribed (the words, the pronunciation of words, the intonation, the facial expression, the gestures, fidgeting, pauses, etc.)? 

What you must turn in:
We ask you to turn in to us the typed transcript and a ONE PAGE discussion of the points listed above. That is, minimally, discuss the issue of what makes an adequate transcription, and what challenges a computer might have in interacting in the discourse that you have collected.