Dialogue and Interaction

Much of my current research addresses questions that I started working on during my PhD at the University of Rochester, and in particular during the TRAINS project (Allen et al, 1995).

The semantics and pragmatics of dialogue

My research on the semantics and pragmatics of dialogues has involved formal work on general models of the common ground and how it is established in collaboration with David Traum, Reinhard Muskens, Hannes Rieser and, more recently, Jonathan Ginzburg. (Poesio, 1994a; Poesio and Traum, 1997; Poesio and Muskens, 1997; Poesio and Traum, 1998; Matheson, Poesio and Traum, 2000; Poesio and Rieser, 2010; Poesio and Rieser, 2011; Ginzburg and Poesio, 2016 ). I am particularly interested in developing models of semantic interpretation that take into account the fragmentary nature of spoken input and the disfluencies it may contain (Poesio, 1995a; Poesio, 1995b; Poesio,1996b; Poesio, 1996c; Poesio, 1997; Poesio and Rieser, 2010; Poesio and Rieser, 2011 ).

One of the goals of my work with David Traum was to come up with a theory of the updates resulting from utterances other than assertions; in particular, we studied the process by which the common ground is established (Clark's grounding, see also (Traum, 1994)) and how to interpret utterances that contribute to it, such as acknowledgments and repairs ( Poesio and Traum, 1997 ; Poesio and Traum, 1998 ;Matheson, Poesio and Traum, 2000 ). This work started in Rochester and continued after I joined HCRC and the Centre for Cognitive Science at the University of Edinburgh.

At HCRC I had the opportunity to take advantage of resources such as the MapTask corpus , and initiated a collaboration with Robin Cooper that began in the EU-funded FraCaS project and continued in the European Union-sponsored project TRINDI, which was concerned with dialogue management and, more generally, with the notion of information state in dialogue.

More recently, I collaborated for several years with Hannes Rieser from the University of Bielefeld. Working primarily with data from the University of Bielefeld's `Airfix' corpus of task-oriented conversations between a direction giver instructing a direction follower to build an airplane model, we proposed an account of the semantics of completions--utterances completed by a different conversational participant from the one who had started them (Poesio and Rieser, 2010). We also developed accounts of incremental reference (Poesio and Rieser, 2011) and of the use of pointing and other gestures (Rieser and Poesio, 2009).

With Jonathan Ginzburg, I wrote a paper arguing for Interaction Grammars which take dialogic competence as seriously as competence in other aspects of language use.

After my recent move to the Cognitive Science Research Group at Queen Mary, I have become again actively involved in research on the semantics of dialogues, which is the core research area of many of my colleagues, and in organizing events in the area, such as the annual series of workshops on the Semantics of Dialogues , which I founded.

Empirical work on dialogue: emotions and attention

A second line of research on dialogue is concerned with collecting evidence about interpretation processes in dialogue, in particular with the role of emotions (Cavicchio and Poesio 2012a; Cavicchio and Poesio 2012b; van Paaschen et al in preparation ) and attention (Cavicchio et al, 2014).

Spoken dialogue systems

Ever since my involvement in the TRAINS project I have been interested in applying our ideas on dialogue to the development of spoken dialogue systems. More recently, I was involved in the development of a number of spoken dialogue interfaces to the iSpace, an intelligent flat at the University of Essex (you can see a demo of a 2012 project here).

Projects (in inverse chronological order)

  • PRESTO, funded by the Provincia di Trento (2013-2016). This project was concerned with the development of cognitively plausible cognitive architectures that express emotions in a credible way to support tutoring of different kinds.
  • TRINDI, funded by the EU (1998-2000). This project was concerned with a theory of dialogue management based on the idea of information state update. One of the outcomes of the project was the TrindiKit.

Main publications