16 Mar “Human all too human”: Grassroots Radio at CHI2020
Grassroots Radio keeps on achieving important results, this time in the academic domain with a paper accepted at the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2020. The paper is titled ““Human, All Too Human”: NOAA Weather Radio and the Emotional Impact of Synthetic Voices”, authored by Kristen Scott (Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute, M‑ITI), Simone Ashby (Interactive Technologies Institute/LARSyS), and Julian Hanna (Interactive Technologies Institute/LARSyS).
The paper presents a piece of research discussing the integration of text-to-speech technologies into an open technology stack for low-power FM community radio stations as it is happening in Grassroots Radio.
The ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) series of academic conferences is generally considered the most prestigious in the field of human-computer interaction. CHI has been held annually since 1982 and attracts thousands of international attendees.
Here is the full abstract of the paper:
The integration of text-to-speech into an open technology stack for low-power FM community radio stations is an opportunity to automate laborious processes and increase accessibility to information in remote communities. However, there are open questions as to the perceived contrast of synthetic voices with the local and intimate format of community radio. This paper presents an exploratory focus group on the topic, followed by a thematic analysis of public comments on YouTube videos of the synthetic voices used for broadcasting by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio. We find that despite observed reservations about the suitability of TTS for radio, there is significant evidence of anthropomorphism, nostalgia and emotional connection in relation to these voices. Additionally, introduction of a more “human sounding” synthetic voice elicited significant negative feedback. We identify pronunciation, speed, suitability to content and acknowledgment of limitations as more relevant factors in listeners’ stated sense of connection.