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Photo by Cesar Carlevarino Aragon on Unsplash

In November 2020 I reached out to the conversation design community with a question:

What do conversation designers need in their toolkit?

This idea came from Steven King’s book ‘On Writing’. He suggests that writers use certain tools every time they write — grammar, style, vocabulary, etc. — and they should consider which tools are in good shape and which need improving. I loved this idea and wondered how it might relate to conversation design?

You probably know this, but it’s worth saying it again; ‘conversation designer’ is still a new job title. Chatbots and voicebots were niche until around…

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Photo by Denes Kozma on Unsplash

It was at the first excellent VoiceLunch of 2021 that Allen Firstenberg said we should disagree more — his point being that we should avoid being an echo chamber as we all might benefit from the insights gained.

I absolutely agree (off to a bad start there!).

Allen’s suggestion made me think how I spent too much time on social media (LinkedIn and Twitter) in discussions about conversation design throughout 2020. This year I‘m going to do things differently because I’m not sure how much impact I can have when I suggest a different approach without showing it.

So here’s…

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Photo by Alireza Attari on Unsplash

Sound brings the world to life. We listen all day (even when sleeping). Even people with partial or total hearing loss still respond to vibrations.

I wrote this article as a quick introduction to important principles of sound, and why you should care about them. It’s for designers who are new to sound but perhaps veterans will also find something useful here.

Let’s get started!

1) Sound is emotional

We constantly use our ears to listen for threats. It’s a survival mechanism. For example we listen to find out; Is that person angry with me? Is that growling dog close by? …

Words gain new meaning when said aloud — this can strengthen the message or undermine it. With this article I shine a light on how paralanguage can impact voice assistants.

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Photo by Andre Guerra on Unsplash

Paralanguage needs to be experienced to be understood — please listen to the included audio files :)

Words on a screen.

Words said aloud.

They are not the same.

Why is that? When a text is read aloud it gains an extra layer of meaning; each speaker puts their own spin on words and this can either reinforce or change the message. This phenomena is often called paralanguage and it’s present with every spoken utterance. Paralanguage also occurs with synthetic voices…

Benjamin McCulloch

Conversation Designer and Audio Specialist —

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