Public engagement with the Joking Computer

  • Judith Masthoff (Participant)
  • Graeme Ritchie (Participant)

Impact: Cultural

Who is affected by, or benefits from, the research?

- Primary school children (P5 classes) and family groups attended the workshops (276 people)
- Primary school children and family groups interacted with the exhibits in Science Centres (estimated 16000 people)
- The general public interacted with the website (around 200 000 visits)
- The general public was made aware of the research through the media.
- The general public attended a public talk (about 120 people).
- Young researchers learned public engagement, research and technical skills. One researcher decided to pursue a PhD, one became a university lecturer, and one finished his PhD and obtained a job in industry.

Project summary and aims

The Joking Computer was a public engagement project. The project's Joking Computer software was installed in interactive touchscreen kiosks in Glasgow Science Centre (Dec 2009 – August 2010), Satrosphere Aberdeen (March 2010 – present), and soon in Dundee Sensations Science Centre (May 2012 onwards). These exhibits have been used by over ten thousand members of the general public. Workshops with groups of schoolchildren were run at the Word Festival (May 2010), Techfest (September 2010), and Satrosphere (October 2010). The materials created for these workshops have been made generally available for primary school teachers to use, and have received enthusiastic approval from the teachers who attended our workshops. A Cafe Scientifique talk was given to the general public (Aberdeen 2010). A child-friendly website was created, with a large amount of educational information and some interactive games, including a full-scale interactive version of the project's main software. This site has had tens of thousands of visits, with the interactive software in particular receiving nearly 200,000 hits. The project attracted much media attention, resulting in a articles in the press, radio interviews, and a TV appearance.

Feedback was collected at the workshops, in the science centres, in evaluation sessions in a primary school, and online. Teachers were very enthusiastic about the workshops (e.g. "excellent teaching materials", "covered many literacy and ICT skills", "pupils thoroughly enjoyed it"). The children also enjoyed the workshops and particularly liked making their own jokes. In the evaluation of the exhibit, we found that children particularly enjoyed seeing how jokes get built. They commented that the Joking Computer will need to learn how to make better jokes, and were quite happy to rate jokes to help the researchers improve it. The data gathered by the exhibit and its on-line version will allow for more detailed analysis of the Joking Computer and the public perception of humour.Most users who supplied feedback via the website indicated that they had learned about how jokes worked and what artificial intelligence is used for.
Impact statusImpact Completed (Open)
Category of impactCultural
Stage of ImpactEngagement