Considering design for automatic speech recognition in use

  • Ben James Kraal

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Talking to a computer is hard. Large vocabulary automatic speech recognition (ASR) systems are difficult to use and yet they are used by many people in their daily work. This thesis addresses the question: How is ASR used and made usable and useful in the workplace now? To answer these questions I went into two workplaces where ASR is currently used and one where ASR could be used in the future. This field work was done with designing in mind. ASR dictation systems are currently used in the Australian Public Service (APS) by people who suffer chronic workplace overuse injuries and in the Hansard department of Parliament House (Hansard) by un-injured people. Analysing the experiences of the users in the APS and at Hansard showed that using an ASR system in the workplace follows a broad trajectory that ends in the continued effort to maintain its usefulness. The usefulness of the ASR systems is 'performed into existence' by the users with varying degrees of success. For both the APS and Hansard users, they use ASR to allow work to be performed; ASR acts to bridge the gap between otherwise incompatible ways of working. This thesis also asks: How could ASR be used and made usable and useful in workplaces in the future? To answer this question, I observed the work of communicating sentences at the ACT Magistrates Court. Communicating sentences is a process that is distributed in space and time throughout the Court and embodied in a set of documents that have a co-ordinating role. A design for an ASR system that supports the process of communicating sentences while respecting existing work process is described. Moving from field work to design is problematic. This thesis performs the process of moving from field work to design, as described above, and reflects the use of various analytic methods used to distill insights from field work data. The contributions of this thesis are: . The pragmatic use of existing social research methods and their antecedents as a corpus of analyses to inspire new designs; vi . a demonstration of the use of Actor-Network Theory in design both as critique and as part of a design process; . empirical field-work evidence of how large vocabulary ASR is used in the workplace; . a design showing how ASR could be introduced to the rich, complicated, environment of the ACT Magistrates Court; and,. a performance of the process of moving from field work to design.
Date of Award2006
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra
SupervisorMichael Wagner (Supervisor), Penny Collings (Supervisor) & Anni Dugdale (Supervisor)

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