"Imagining a Next-Revolution Eliza"

Nick Montfort and Andrew Stern have published the text of their very interesting speech given at the Electronic Literature Organization "Visionary Landscapes" conference; the subject is ELIZA, the 1966 parody of a Rogerian therapist — more correctly, it's where the next ELIZA-like program (in terms of influence) is going to come from and what it may look like. It's an interesting piece, coming from the perspective of "bigger and flashier is not always better":

We begin by assuming that computation and literary art are inherently very powerful. That is, we assume it is not essential to have recourse to networked communication, massive knowledge bases, or even graphics capabilities to develop a provocative, affecting project that inquires about important issues. In thinking about a such a project, we are seeking an antidote to today's ever larger and complex computer applications - sixty-hour game quests within expansive virtual worlds, mashups of intricate Web technologies, and massively feature-bloated operating systems. A small yet powerful and surprising computer program would be both pleasurable and provocative because of its simplicity and clean concept. So we simply assume, rather than trying to prove, that while more elaborate systems may be interesting in some ways, a new system on the scale of Eliza can still have the sort of broad impact today that Weizenbaum's computer character did more than forty years ago. Given that, we ask, what specific qualities would this system have?

It's worth a read through if you're interested in this sort of stuff (there's a nice, concise discussion of other systems that have had a big impact, from Tetris to SimCity to Google); Mark Marino has already posted a response.

Provocation by Program: Imagining a Next-Revolution Eliza [GrandTextAuto]