Personal Power and Agency When Dealing with Interactive Voice Response Systems and Alternative Modalities

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Personal Power and Agency When Dealing with Interactive Voice Response Systems and Alternative Modalities


  • Jill Walsh Division of Emerging Media Studies, Boston University, USA
  • Brittany Leigh Andersen Division of Emerging Media Studies, Boston University, USA
  • James E. Katz Division of Emerging Media Studies, Boston University, USA
  • Jacob Groshek Division of Emerging Media Studies, Boston University, USA


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Abstract:  In summer 2015, we conducted an exploratory study of how people in the U.S. use and respond to robot-like systems in order to achieve their needs through mediated customer service interfaces. To understand this process, we carried out three focus groups sessions along with 50 in-depth interviews. Strikingly we found that people perceive (correctly or not) that interactive voice response customer service technology is set up to deter them from pursuing further contact. And yet, for the most part, people were unwilling to simply give up on the goals that motivated their initial contact. Consequently, they had to innovate ways to communicate with the automated systems that essentially serve as gatekeepers to their desired ends. These results have implications for communication theory and system design, especially since these systems will be increasingly presented to consumers as social media affordances evolve.

Keywords:  computer mediated communication (CMC); interactive voice response systems (IVRs); media equation theory; power in communication; social robots; theory of mind

Published:   25 September 2018


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v6i3.1205


© Jill Walsh, Brittany Leigh Andersen, James E. Katz, Jacob Groshek. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.