Theory and Practice in Discourse and Dialogue for Interactive Systems
[Summary ] [Schedule ] [Assignments ] [Bibliography ] [Resources ] [ Requirements ] [ Weekly Question Submission ]
Course Requirements


  1. For a class like this, class attendance and completion of the readings by the assigned date are essential. It's not a lecture class - you will be expected to be bright eyed, bushy tailed, and eager to discuss the readings. For that reason, even though it's a grad class, we take attendance and give an attendance grade, which depends on both being in a seat, and participating. Students who facebook, write emails, or sms will receive horrifyingly low grades for attendance/participation.
  2. Each week, before Tuesday noon, students must answer the question that they find on Blackboard. The point of your answer is threefold: (1) to synthesize information from several readings (i.e. to demonstrate that you have read the papers), (2) to open a dialogue with the other students in the class (i.e. to get the other students to want to respond to you), and (3) to let the instructors know what we should cover in more depth in class in time for us to prepare for the Weds class. To get to the question, log into Blackboard ( ), go to the joint class (listed as <2009Fall EECS_431-0_SEC_20_COMM_ST_525-0_SEC23> and then choose "Communication" from the menu on the left-hand side of the page. From there, choose "Discussion Board" and you will see some questions. Click on the title of the question you are answering today, and then choose "thread". Write a subject, a message and then click <submit> and your answer will be posted under the question. Phew!
  3. Students will take turns running the class. Running the class means
    • Preparing a handout that summarizes the important points of the readings, and points to places where students might want to take issue with what is said, or might want to pay particular attention. This handout must be sent out by Monday at 9am to the class mailing list, in time for students to use it in their reading.
    • Delivering an in class presentation. Everybody is incredibly bored by classroom presentations that simply go through the readings. So, assume that everybody has done the readings, and come up with something interesting to say about them. We suggest (a)  a discussion of an existing conversational/dialogue interactive system that deals with the discourse phenomenon under discussion.  The presentation should include a short description of the system architecture and a discussion of how well or poorly the particular discourse phenomenon in question is treated, and how it might be extended.
      AND / OR
      (b)  your own design sketch of a computational system or application that depends on or exemplifies the phenomenon treated in that week's readings, and leading a discussion in class on that computational system.  A design sketch should present a system of the student's own invention that incorporates the phenomenon under discussion into its functioning. The system can be as fantastical as you desire (and may incorporate *some* elements that are impossible given the state of research today), but the part of the system that uses the class phenomenon should be down-to-earth, possible, and clear. The goal of this exercise is to help the class understand the utility of discourse phenomena for interactive systems, and to understand in a concrete way how to incorporate them into system design.To reiterate, leading the class must not consist of a description or laying out of the article (a zero grade will be given in these instances, where zero means boring!). You are to assume that the class has read the article, and spend your time applying the articles to a system, and evaluating the approach (these are much more interesting!).
  4. Students must complete assignments, as listed on the assignment page. The assignments must be turned in on paper in class, and must also be sent by email to Justine and Zeina before class. Because Zeina and I get together right after class to look at the assignments, it is a real pain for us if assignments are late. For this reason, your assignment grade will be reduced by a half-grade by each 12 hours the assignment is late. You'll note that there are assignments each week for the first 3 weeks, to give you the tools to come up with a project idea. After that, fewer assignments!


  • All of the course readings will be available electronically, and linked to the syllabus.   The slides from student presentations will also be made available and linked to the syllabus, so, please mail us your presentation, as powerpoint or PDF, before the end of the day on Wednesday.


  • Attendance & Participation 7% (1 free day)
  • Lead Class Discussion 10% ( 5% each)
  • 8 Weekly Questions 8%
  • Transcription Assignment 10%
  • Nonverbal Behavior Assignment 10%
  • Coding Assignment 10%
  • Project Proposal 10%
  • Final Project Write-Up & Presentation 15%
  • Final Project 10%