My thesis project continues to evolve as I explore the world of online adolescence. I rewrote my thesis proposal statement, originally posted here, to better address the “big ideas” I want to address. Here it is:
It can be uncomfortable to revisit adolescent journals, now knowing that they were often nothing more than vapid rants. However, they served a purpose: to establish a sense of self and to define the author’s identity both to him/herself and – in an online world – to the public. The public nature of blogging sites old and new help to reinforce this. Furthermore, it enables us, as adults, to recall this transitional adolescent identity in a way that previous generations have not. What does it mean that I can pull up 14-year-old Sam with only a few clicks? That, as a child of the internet era, I am never far from an earlier version of myself?
Sarah suggested I use people’s old online journals to allow them to talk to their adolescent selves, so now I’ve started to explore chatbots. Chatbots have been around for decades, from ELIZA in 1966 to the chatbot that I think most of my peers would remember from their adolescence: SmarterChild. With the ultimate goal of using the corpus of old blog entries to enable a conversation with your prior online self, I’m now building “a chatbot a day” to give me a feel for the capabilities of chatbots and how people want to interact with them. You can talk to my chatbots here.