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Humor in Human-Computer Interaction: A Short Survey



This paper is a short survey on humor in human-computer interaction. It describes how humor is designed and interacted with in social media, virtual agents, social robots and smart environments. Benefits and future use of humor in interactions with artificial entities are discussed based on literature reviews.
Humor in Human-Computer Interaction:
A Short Survey
Anton Nijholt, Andreea I. Niculescu, Alessandro Valitutti, Rafael E. Banchs
University of Twente, Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R),Universit`a di Bari, [andreea-n,rembanchs],
Abstract. This paper is a short survey on humor in human-computer
interaction. It describes how humor is designed and interacted with in
social media, virtual agents, social robots and smart environments. Ben-
efits and future use of humor in interactions with artificial entities are
discussed based on literature reviews.
Keywords: humor, social media, embodied agents, smart environments
1 Introduction
Humor is a complex cognitive process that frequently, but not necessarily, leads
to laughter [53]. The Oxford English dictionary defines humor as “the faculty of
observing what is ludicrous or amusing or of expressing it” [62]. The fact that
even a simple joke uses simultaneously language skills, theory-of-mind, symbol-
ism, abstract thinking, and social perception, makes humor arguably the most
complex cognitive attribute humankind may have [34].
Humor is consistently found in all cultures around the world [69]: people of
all ages and backgrounds seem to have an instinctive ability to perceive humor
attempts, a fact suggesting humor has an evolutionary basis. Researchers found
close ties between humor and playfulness: humor appears to be the very com-
plex ability of the mind to be playful with thoughts [34]. Further, researchers
also found that mock aggression usually exhibited in playful behavior was a
way to resolve social conflict, relieve tension [34] and facilitate cooperation by
transferring information on sympathy levels through recipients laughter [26].
Along the history, humor has played an important role in our cultural and
social life as it manifested in literature, poetry, arts, and theater. Taking vari-
ous ways of expression and functionalities, humor appears in the performances
of native North American tribal clowns [53], Arabic storyteller tradition [20],
Indonesian Wayankulit puppet shows [59], Polynesian clowning wedding tradi-
tions [24], modern television comedies or more classic stand-up comedy in cafes
around the world [15].
Although the use of humor is universal, what is held to be funny is relative
and may vary from culture to culture: for example, jokes that provoke laughter
in Indian popular theaters would hardly draw a smile from a Dutch observer [15];
Americans seem to prefer aggressive humor more than Belgians, Honk Kongese
[12], Senegalese or Japanese [60] do while native Hungarians show more ap-
preciation for jokes featuring ethnic stereotypes as compared to their bilingual
English-Hungarians counterparts [19] [33]. Such differences explain why many
jokes or ironic remarks often go unremarked, misunderstood or perceived as of-
fensive [56]. As such, creating humor seems to be a very challenging task: one
needs to be aware of social norms and culture-specific conventions, share a com-
mon background with the audience, master language subtleties and sense the
appropriate context for spinning a good story [56].
Humor is also found to be an attractive characteristic in people increas-
ing the interpersonal attraction [9], strengthen friendship and boosting trust
among peers [21] and business partners [30]. Also, in learning environments hu-
mor proved to be an excellent tool for promoting content retention and student
motivation [72].
In this paper, we explore the benefits humor can bring in human-computer
interaction (HCI). More specific, we look at how humorous interaction can be
created in social media, virtual agents, social robots and smart environments
with the goal of ultimately achieving a better user experience (UX). It is a fact
that humor continues to evolve in our modern times through memes, YouTube
clips, funny tweets and other playful interactions.
Since humor has always shown positive influences in our lives, we can expect
similar beneficial consequences in interaction with technology. However, the HCI
field holds rather an undecided view on humor in task-oriented interactions: on
one side, the traditional view considers humor to increase overall competition
time by distracting users and causing them to take the task less seriously; on
the other side, research studies have found task competition time and amount
of effort to be mainly unaffected by incorporating humor in interaction [38].
Concerning non task-oriented interactions, HCI has a rather neutral view:
neither are humor interactions recommended nor discouraged. As technology
started moving from our work environment to our home and less goal-directed
interactions are starting to become predominant [48], we believe humor can
positively affect the interaction.
This paper has four sections each one corresponding to a technology under
review, namely social media, virtual agents and social robots and smart envi-
ronments - smart environments is given special consideration in our paper due
to the relative importance it has in nowadays context. The survey ends with
conclusions and a future work outline.
2 Humor and Social Media
Since humor is a social phenomenon, it is not surprising to find plenty of hu-
morous events occurring in mobile and web-based dialogue. For example, it a
is a common experience to type unintentionally funny texts by using the auto
correction feature of instant messaging systems. This situation happens so often
that there are websites where users share the humorous messages they consider
mostly hilarious1. One of the strategies employed in computational humor con-
sists of identifying these sources of unintentional humor and recreating them
intentionally. In the case of the above example, previous attempts have been
performed to model short texts containing humorous mistakes, using forms of
lexical similarity to produce funny puns [66][64].
During the last decade, social media enabled people to produce and share
a vast amount of multimodal material, including humorous texts, images, and
videos. For instance, YouTube hosts a large number of videos showing pranks or
funny mistakes. Humorous comments are commonly posted on Facebook as well
as Twitter and YouTube. Internet memes, generally consisting of a picture and
a short message, are one of the most common types of potentially viral content.
Despite their simple structure, internet memes are enough complex to combine
linguistic and visual creativity and thus achieve forms of multimodal humor that
have been modeled computationally[31][49].
Social media not only give the opportunity to share content between members
of an online community but also allow them to provide feedback, rate what
is posted and select the posts they like most. The feedback can be explicit,
such as Facebook likes or Reddit upvotes or downvotes, or implicit, as in the
case of Twitter’s retweet or Facebook’s share features (where reposting some
content may be used as an indirect indicator of humor appreciation). Web sites
such as Sickipedia2collects jokes posted by the users and rank them according
to the users’ feedback (as either up-votes or down-votes). It may happen that
some users provide a new version, possibly more successful, of an already posted
joke. In this way, a form of evolutionary selection promotes the creation and
transformation of jokes. This process achieves, at a higher speed, the same type
of collective creativity underlying the creation of jokes communicated in oral,
face-to-face, channels. In the case of media environments where comments can
be nested (e.g., comments on comments, etc.), such as Reddit [14], the repartee
generated by this feature produces original and funny conversational traces.
A particularly interesting research line is about computational analysis and
generation of verbal irony in tweets. Irony and sarcasm typically have a double
audience. They are used both “laugh at someone” and “laugh with someone”
[61]. Sarcastic tweets, in particular, express a negative opinion about some target
(e.g. a politician) and, at the same time, are meant to amuse the readers and
to make them willing to retweet them. This explains the explosion of interest in
automated sarcasm detection, on which recent advancements has been performed
using various machine-learning techniques [22][57][5][51]. Moreover, there have
been first attempts to generate irony automatically and provide Twitter bots
with ironic capabilities [67].
One of the main advantages in the study of humor in social media is the
possibility to analyze the ongoing collective response of users to humorous mes-
sages. For instance, an empirical study shows that practical jokes, performed
by brands as a way to attract the attention of consumers, are not particularly
useful as a marketing strategy [27]. Pranks are a kind of disparagement humor,
relying on the induction of negative emotions such as fear or other negative stim-
uli such as derision or aggression. According to this study, people often tend to
empathize with the victim of the prank and thus associate negative sentiments
to the brand.
In summary, we envision two stages in the computational treatment of humor
in social media. The first phase would consist of the development of computa-
tional resources for modeling humor expressed by events, social behaviors, shared
knowledge and its rating by online communities. In a second stage, computa-
tional humor researchers will hopefully be able to build systems proactively able
to create humorous events and adapt their humorous behavior according to the
individual and collective responses.
3 Humor, Embodied Agents, and Robotics
Humor underlies a highly complex cognitive process that clearly distinguishes
humans from other species in the animal kingdom: it is a sign of intelligence, an
ice-breaker in social gathering, a way to relieve stress and to induce good mood.
And yet until recently from the HCI point of view, humor has received little
However, why virtual agents and machines should use humor? Through their
visual appearance, speech and gesture, virtual agents and social robots try to
mimic the style of human interaction. On one side, this human-likeliness brings
familiarity; on the other side, it could lead to unfulfilled expectations and feelings
of uncanniness [37]. A way of dealing with such shortcomings could be to lower
the user expectations, decrease the degree of striking human resemblance and
improve the user experience by making the interaction less tensioned. Perhaps,
humor could induce a key change of perspective, making users laugh at a yet
imperfect technology and, thus, accept it.
This hypothesis seems to be confirmed by early studies on humor in HCI re-
port on similar beneficial effects as encountered in human-human interaction. For
example, Morkes and colleagues [38] studied the effects of humor in task-oriented
interactions and found that users rated significantly better the system that gave
humorous comments. He found no evidence of users wasting task completion
time as previously thought in the HCI community but rather an overall im-
proved perception of systems qualities. Similarly, the study by Huan and Szafir
[25] found positive effects of humor in education: students interacting with a
humorous teacher - robot or human - gave more positive comments about the
instructor than otherwise. Also, a later study by Niculescu and colleagues [42]
demonstrated that humor increases the likeliness of a social robot’s speaking
style and personality, as well as it contributes towards increasing the overall
task enjoyment.
Expressing humor gives the machine the ultimate human touch: the study by
Dybala et al. [17] showed that users evaluated a humorous agent as more human-
like and consequently rated it as more likable and funny. Babu and colleagues
[4] also found that social conversations increased up to 50% when a virtual
receptionist used jokes in interaction with human users.
Humor in non-verbal form of expression (e.g. gestures, facial expressions,
whole body movements) was studied by Wend and Berg [68] in interaction with a
service robot. Their study showed that non-verbal humor has significant positive
effects on the way different robot characteristics were perceived, as well as on
the entire interaction quality evaluation.
Another study by Katevas and colleagues [28] investigates social dynamics
between a robot performing stand-up comedy and a human audience. Results
showed that people respond more positively when the robot looks at them while
performing. Also, robot’s gestures seemed to contribute to different patterns in
the audience response. The study provides good insights on how humor and
stand-up comedy should be designed in a multimodal interaction context.
Further, the study by Niculescu and Banchs [41] shows how humor can be
used to help chatbots recovering from errors: in situations of failures, i.e. when
the system is unable to retrieve the correct answer, it may use humorous re-
sponses to prompt the user to reformulate the query and consequently recover
from failure.
Humor also seems to be a successful tool to persuade people to change bad
habits. Started as an initiative of the Volkswagen Group Sweden, the so-called
‘fun theory’ explores how fun, playfulness and humor can change user behavior
for the better. Within a competition organized for the best fun idea, several
interactive ‘ideas’ were developed such as an interactive piano staircase, an
noise making garbage bin, a playful recycling automaton, rewarding speed cam-
era etc. These devices were used to persuade people to do more sport, throw
garbage in the bins, recycle more and reduce speed while driving. Empirical re-
sults confirmed that more people tended to change their behavior as a result of
experiencing fun in interaction [1].
Implementing humor however, given its subtleties and nuanced facets is one
of the major challenges in computer science. There are three important steps for
a successful deployment of humor in autonomous systems: firstly, humor needs
to be detected and semantically understood. Secondly, it needs to be generated.
Thirdly, humor needs to be delivered at the right moment and appropriate situ-
ation; the last one is perhaps, the most challenging task, as background knowl-
edge, emotional intelligence, context and culture awareness are needed. While
notable advancements in the area of detection [50][13] [45] [23], understanding
[55], generation [65], appropriate delivery [16] [3] were made, the development of
fully automatic humorous machines capable of recognizing, generating and using
humor appropriately is still in its infancy.
Recognizing the value of humor in interaction, big corporations such as Ap-
ple, Microsoft and Amazon started investing in creating virtual agents having
gender, level of education, personality, political opinions and of course their very
own style of humor. Siri, Cortana and Alexa are already famous for their funny
responses. Interestingly, here is that behind the answers stand not carefully de-
signed algorithms but rather teams of novelists hired by the corporations to give
the audience the best possible responses [18].
In the future, we expect humor to be used on a large scale in interaction with
virtual agents and social robots for an increased number of purposes. This could
be learning tasks, i.e to help retain content more easily, motivate people pursuing
a specific goal, change peoples behavior and improve system usability in case of
errors. At the moment, artificial devices still struggle with understanding natural
language semantics and as such, mastering humor will be with no doubt a
huge technological step forward to be probably accomplished not in a few years
4 Humor in Smart Environments
Sensor technology is about devices that obtain information from pressure (touch:
screen, button, mat), movement (camera), identification (intelligent vision), ges-
ture (intelligent vision), temperature (thermometer, infrared camera), tags (RFID
scanners), sound and speech, (neuro-) physical sensors, and even implants that
provide information about brain activity. Actuators are computer controlled
devices that make physical changes to the environment (movements, replace-
ments, appearances, volumes, sound, temperature, pressure, light, humidity,
smell, taste, ...). In smart environments these actuators, fed by computing de-
vices (embedded micro-processors) that assess sensor information, take care of
communication, control of heating, lighting, humidity, safety, and other issues
that deal with efficiency and sustainability. Sensors and actuators are in our
wearables: smart phones, smart watches, smart textile. Smart materials [36] act
as sensors and actuators at the same time.
Thanks to sensor technology our environments become smart. We are used
to doors that open when we approach or escalators that start moving when
we get close. Air conditioning or heating devices in our rooms know about the
temperature and know about our preferences. Sprinkler installations can detect
smoke and actuate sprinkling. Home security systems guard our houses. Our
activities are monitored. Audio-visual and haptic information can be sensed,
manipulated, and distributed, and can become input to actuators that can make
changes to the environment. Our smartphones sense and are sensed, they are
context-aware and allow implicit interactions with the environment. In our homes
we can talk with domestic digital assistants that control devices in our house.
Embedded smartness in our environments, our wearables and bodies will
penetrate all our activities, including our home, recreational, travel and office
activities. Will it also penetrate our ways of generating and appreciating humor
in verbal and non-verbal contexts? In this section we are interested in generat-
ing and experiencing humor that involves digital technology in real world envi-
ronments. Hence, digitally enhanced real world environments, in which we live
(smart domestic environments), work (smart workplaces), travel (smart public
transport, smart cars) or do shopping and recreate (smart public spaces).
How can the design of humorous and playful events make use of digital tech-
nology? Can we have spontaneous use of digital technology, by on the fly chang-
ing and reconfiguring sensors and actuators, to create a humorous situation? Can
smart technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) autonomously decide what to
do in order to create a humorous situation? And, finally, does the presence of
smart technology increase the chance of unintentional humor?
4.1 Humor: From the Language Domain to the Physical World
Humor research is usually focused on the use of humor in texts and in verbal
interaction. Theories of verbal humor, for example the so-called “General Theory
of Verbal Humor” developed by Victor Raskin and Salvatore Attardo [2], provide
an analysis of jokes, where jokes are represented as conflicting scripts. That
is, when someone is telling a joke usually, at first, a stereotypical situation is
introduced. But, this set-up allows ambiguity that we become aware of when
there is an unexpected change in the story (in a joke, the punch line). The
change makes us clear that we gave a wrong interpretation to the set-up, and
we are surprised and confused, especially when the new situation is opposing
the original one. But our confusion is changed to understanding once we have
resolved the incongruity we were experiencing.
Although not all jokes follow this pattern, we can certainly learn from this
incongruity view on humor when investigating non-language humor, including
nonverbal aspects of interaction, cartoons, comedies, sitcoms, stand-up com-
edy, movies, video games, and the real, physical world. We can use this view
when investigating the creation and experiencing of humor in our daily activi-
ties, when we intentionally or unintentionally take part in humorous events or
witness events that make us laugh. Again, incongruities, unexpected but forced
deviations from stereotypical interpretations of how things should appear or be
done are the key elements of humor in real-life situations. But we need to add
two other viewpoints.
The first one is that when we abandon the language domain, incongruities can
become cross-modal incongruities. There can be incongruity between appearance
and behavior, between language use and behavior, or more detailed, between
gestures and eye gaze behavior, et cetera. When sufficiently conflicting, these
cross-modal incongruities can help to let a humorous situation appear.
The second viewpoint we need to mention is that speech, conversations, and
text present humor in a sequential way. There is the explicit possibility to mislead
a reader or listener by presenting story elements in a particular order. This
can also happen in a real-life situation, we see events happening sequentially,
we change our physical viewpoint, we understand what’s going on after seeing
the reaction of bystanders. But it can also be the case that two conflicting
interpretations are presented at the same time. For example, in a cartoon, where
the visual information conflicts with the text balloon or the caption, or when
in “The Goldrush” Charlie Chaplin is eating his shoelaces pretending they are
spaghetti strings (a literal and metaphorical interpretation appearing at the same
time). We have two concurrent, but opposing meanings. At a more global level,
behavior that is expected in one social context can become inappropriate and
potentially humorous in another. In real life we can observe pets and children
acting in ways that are non-stereotypical from the point of view of grown-ups.
Hence we can observe incongruities and humor that follows from them.
4.2 Humor Research beyond Jokes and Conversations
There is an enormous amount of humor research in psychology. There is research
on the appreciation of humor, the various types of humor, functions of humor or
the cultural aspects of humor. There is research on humor in sitcoms, movies,
and video games. There are numerous books on comedy writing. In applications
such as advertising, healthcare and education the persuasive role of humor is in-
vestigated. Collections of chapters on fundamental and applied studies of humor
can be found for example, in [35] and [54].
We are interested in how humor can be created, rather than in its functioning,
its various roles and possible ways of appreciation. Moreover, we are interested
in humor as it appears in the physical world, rather than in language. And,
because of the digital enhancement of our physical world, we are interested
what role digital technology can play in creating non-language humor. Since our
aim is to study opportunities for humor to appear in digitally enhanced real-life
environments it is useful to see what has been said - before the advent of digital
technology about generating humorous events in real-life environments.
Unfortunately, although there are typologies of humor and descriptions of
basic techniques, the viewpoint that is usually taken is the characterization or
the analysis of humor. Nevertheless, knowing about characterizations of humor-
ous events should help us to design humorous events in smart environments or
to design conditions that can help in creating humorous events, whether de-
signed in advance, or created spontaneously, on the spur of the moment when
an opportunity arises and humor seems to be appropriate.
There is another shortcoming of these typologies, they hardly address hu-
morous situations in real life. In the tradition of Bergson [7] who was very much
influenced by French theater play in his and previous centuries, more recent re-
searchers usually make references to events that occur in movies, rather than
in the real world. No¨el Carroll [10] investigated ‘sight gags’ in movies from an
incongruity point of view. Most examples are taken from silent movies. In Morre-
all [40] categories of humor are introduced as it can appear in objects, persons,
or situations. These categories are: ‘Deficiency in an object or person’, ‘One
thing/situation seeming to be another’, ‘Coincidence in things/situations’, ‘In-
congruous juxtaposition’, and ‘Presence of things in inappropriate situations’.
We notice that in all these categories incongruity plays an important role. In
Berger [6] forty-five basic techniques of humor are distinguished. The techniques
were obtained by studying jokes and humorous texts (jokes, comedies, short sto-
ries). Hence we can find many linguistic, logic and style related techniques. They
have been used in comedy writing and the analysis of jokes. But, interestingly,
the techniques have also been used in the analysis of TV commercials [8]. In
jokes, humorous texts, in comedy and in TV commercials the humor is designed.
Situations differ from what we experience in real life, human behavior is more
exaggerated and events are not always plausible or even possible. Nevertheless,
the characterizations of incongruities that are made available by the various
categories are useful for thinking about the creation of humor in the physical
Physical objects can be found in domestic and public environments. Research
on humorous products usually addresses products that are used in our homes,
such as furniture, door mats, vases, mugs, writing material, kitchen and bath
products, et cetera. Products have texture, appearance weight, volume. Some-
times a product can emit, absorb or reflect sound, light or heat. It means, as
discussed in [32], that there are many possibilities to introduce cross-modal in-
congruities in the design of humorous products. Rather than having cross-modal
or cross-sensorial incongruities based on appearance and product properties (for
example, a visual-auditory incongruity is present in a rubber duck that roars like
a lion when it is squeezed). It is also possible to have product incongruities with
characteristics similar to those we can recognize in the categories of Morreall [40].
For example, in [70] representational aspects, operational aspects and aspects of
context of use incongruities are introduced. An example of a representational
(shape) incongruity is a floor lamp with the form of a match stick. There is a
clear relation between a floor lamp and a match stick (they both give light), but
they are certainly opposed in size. An example of an operational incongruity is
a balloon that is used as a business card of a chest physician. When the balloon
is inflated the address of the physician becomes visible. Again, there is a clear
relation between the balloon and the profession of the business card holder, but
of course it is an unexpected use of a balloon. The results of their research have
been used in the design of interactive humorous (indoor) water fountains [71].
Categories of techniques for humorous product design are also introduced in [58]
and [29]. There is overlap between the categories, expected versus unexpected
is of course a common viewpoint, but this viewpoint can be approached from
different directions and in different detail, such as function, representation, and
context, or product properties, or more concrete suggestions concerning the use
of irony, parody, visual puns, anthropomorphization and zoomorphization.
Our observations in this subsection help to make clear what conditions play a
role in order to perceive behavior, an event or a product as humorous. A further
systematic differentiation between incongruities in order to obtain more com-
prehensive design guidelines for introducing incongruities in the physical, non-
language world seems to be useful. The typologies that have been introduced
are about observing humorous events, they dont mention how to introduce hu-
morous events or how to invite humorous interactions. Moreover, whats missing
in these typologies is a possible role of digital technology to introduce humorous
products in a smart home or public space environment or to introduce or what
role digital technology can play in making environments not only smart, but also
playful and humorous. Can we use smart technology to design environments that
have a sense of humor?
4.3 Creating rather than Interpreting Humor
Humans are able to create humor. That is, a remark, a joke or text, a gesture,
a behavior, an object, or an event that provides us with the emotion of comic
amusement [11]. Traditional humor research is about analyzing humor, rather
than on creating humor. Humor can be created, that is, intentionally. Humor
can also appear unintentionally.
If we would have necessary and sufficient conditions for humor to be created
or to appear, we would understand humor. That is not yet the case. But, we can
at least try to find necessary conditions for humor to appear. Conditions include
the introduction of incongruities that surprise us, maybe confuse and challenge
us, but are not threatening. A humorous event can also be suggested. Someone
can comment on a particular situation, drawing our attention to a particular
viewpoint that makes it humorous. Hence, complementing the event with the
necessary conditions that are missing.
For humor as it appears in the real world or in the digitally enhanced real
world we need to distinguish the various roles that human actors play. Let us
first look at how we have a role in joke telling.
In the case of a joke we have a speaker (the joker) and one or more listeners
(the audience). The joker plays with the audience, he or she is misleading the
audience with the set-up of the joke and then introduces an incongruity for the
audience to resolve. A joke is usually about a human activity and involves human
actors. For them there is no incongruity in their behavior or the situation. The
incongruity is in the different viewpoints that are introduced by the joker and
have to be understood by the audience in order to get the joke. We can laugh
about the way we have been fooled and misunderstood the event that is described
in the joke. However, often a joke involves a human actor who is doing stupid
things, who is fooled or is made ridiculous. And we laugh about the misfortune
of this person.
What about the roles of human actors in the real world? We smile a lot,
particularly while face-to-face interacting with other people, but not necessarily
because there is humor involved. But, more importantly for this section, we also
often smile about events that happen in our environment and that we experience
as humorous. Laughing aloud happens when we see an event is seriously humor-
ous or changes from mildly humorous to seriously humorous. We smile or laugh
when someone is fooled, when someone acts stupidly or completely misunder-
stands a particular situation. A person can act in a way that is inappropriate in
a social setting. When confronted with an unknown situation or with unfamiliar
technology, someone can fall back on previous experiences, but they may not be
valid anymore. Similarly, we can laugh about the behavior of pets and children
that are confused by changes in their environment.
Taking these observations into account, in real life humorous situations we
can distinguish various roles for the human ‘participants. We can have observers
of humorous situations (the audience). We can have creators of humorous situa-
tions. Here we need to make a distinction between intentional and unintentional
humor creation. In intentional humor creation we have a creator. The creator
has planned the humor in advance. An artist can make a humorous interactive
installation. An interactive fountain can be designed in such a way that it makes
a difference between an adult and a child when squirting water upon them. An
urban game designer can introduce different roles for the players of the game.
Hence, we can have persons that introduce, knowingly or unknowingly, hu-
morous events or add to events in order to make them humorous. We can be
observers of such humorous events. We can be actors that are involved in humor-
ous events. In the latter case we can help, knowingly or unknowingly, to make
the event possible, or we can be the target and the ‘victim of the humor. We
have humorous event creators, we have observers (the audience) and we have
actors that are part of the humorous event, including ‘actors’ that are the butt
of joke making.
4.4 Smart Humor in Smart Environments
The typologies and incongruity distinctions we mentioned earlier do not take
into account digital technology. They were mainly composed before the advent
of personal computers, the Internet and the World Wide Web. Apart from ob-
servations on humorous product design, examples that illustrate these categories
are usually taken from ‘artificial’ worlds, that is, stage plays and movies. There
are exceptions, but usually we find these exceptions also artificial (how often
see you someone slipping over a banana peel?) or childish (playing keek-a-boo).
Obviously, whether it is about comedy or movies, humorous events in real life,
or real or imagined events in children’s play, in many such situations we have
events that are blown out of all proportion if we compare it with the mild humor
that we experience in our daily routines and activities. We nevertheless think
we can learn how to introduce humorous events in the digitally enhanced real
world by looking at the principles of the techniques that are used to generate
humorous products or at humor as it appears in theater play, sitcoms or movies
in more extreme forms.
We provide two views on creating humor in smart environments. The first
one is a traditional one. Civic authorities can ask artists or media studios to de-
sign humorous and playful interactive installations in public spaces. This is not
necessarily different from designing objects using digital technology in amuse-
ment parks. In public spaces these installations are meant to be available for an
audience during a particular period of time, an exhibition, a celebration or some
other kind of festivity. In certain locations, for example an amusement park, they
can be available for a longer time. But an interesting difference can be that in
public spaces use is made of objects that are natural (rather than artificial ob-
jects in an amusement park) in the public space. Such objects can include lamp
posts, buildings, statues, street signs, traffic lights, metro entrances, billboards,
et cetera. Many examples where sensors and actuators make use of such city
objects in order to create smart humor exist [44][43]. In these projects sensors
and actuators are added to existing street furniture in order to create playful
and humorous situations. Incongruities are introduced because it turns out that
we can interact with lampposts and mailboxes (anthropomorphization) in a con-
versational (chatbot) way or because when we pass a lamppost equipped with an
infrared camera and projector we see not only our own shadow on the street, but
also see shadows that have been recorded from previous passers-by. Although at
first this leads to confusion, we can also see that people become amused and
start playing with their own and projected shadows [47].
Unfortunately, despite the availability of playful and humorous installations,
in public spaces, museums, and workplaces, such projects are not really inte-
grated into a local community, let alone that a local community can decide to use
available IoT technology to introduce playful technology in its environment. The
latter has been done and can expected to be done when more people involved in
the Do-It-Yourselves (DIY) and makers communities start using their and civic
hackers knowledge to ‘attack existing smart street furniture or to add commu-
nity sensor technology to already existing Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
In the ‘shadowing project mentioned above we have a top-down approach, future
and potential users have not been involved in the design and implementation of
the project.
Our second viewpoint is a more visionary one. When smart digital technol-
ogy is available we have the possibility to make the real world more look like the
worlds we know from movies, stage plays, TV serials, video games, and virtual
reality. Making use of (IoT) technology there is the possibility to make changes
to physical environment, the appearance of an environment can change, objects
can occupy different positions, light and other environmental conditions can
change, sensors and actuators can be given different functions or different access
can be allowed. New sensors and actuators can be introduced and configured to
serve particular purposes. Humans participating in these IoT networks are be-
coming nodes in the IoT. They are both sensors and actuators because of their
possibility to interact in traditional ways (speech, facial expression, eye gaze,
body language) with the IoT, but also because their sensorial and intellectual
capabilities will be amplified with smart technology, such as smart wearables
(smart phones, glasses, watches, neuro-physiological sensors, electronic tattoos,
implants, brain stimulation). Moreover, their taste, touch and smell senses can
be amplified. Artificial Intelligence can be used to make us smarter and to make
the environment smarter. Augmented reality should be mentioned as a technol-
ogy that allows us to integrate the physical with any digital world. Hence, in this
second viewpoint humans become smarter and have digitally enhanced sensorial
capabilities, and their environments become smarter. It is unclear yet what con-
sequences this has for new kinds of humor. Evgeny Morozov [39] suggests that
those who control the IoT will control humor.
As mentioned in section 2, in humor research we usually distinguish three
viewpoints, the superiority, the relief, and the incongruity (resolution) viewpoint.
The first two viewpoints are about the functional and the emotional aspects
of humor. The incongruity viewpoint is about the cognitive aspects of humor
and how we can give different interpretations to a particular situation, how we
can make a shift from one interpretation to another and how we can integrate
different interpretations into one. Smart technology makes it possible to change
an environment and to manipulate the perception of an environment. For that
reason we are interested in the incongruity viewpoint. How can smart technology
introduce incongruities that can become humor, that is, that become the object
of comic amusement?
We introduce four categories of intentional humor creation in smart environ-
ments. There can be other, unintentional ways that humor appears in a smart
environment. There can be bugs in the technology and it may also be the case
that humor appears because of not being able to handle the technology, making
errors, and clumsy behavior. In [47][46][63] more can be found about this kind
of humor in smart environments.
The objects of humor are generated autonomously by the smart technol-
ogy. This requires that the smart technology has a sense of humor and uses
it, whenever it is appropriate, to generate an event that will be considered
humorous by someone present in the environment. There can be unwanted
‘participation’ of an actor that is the ‘butt’ of the humor. Other partici-
pants can have a passive role (audience) or be involved in the use of smart
technology to see this event happen.
Smart technology allows us to perceive different views on a particular situ-
ation. We can be persuaded to perceive these views at the same time (con-
currently) or sequentially. This can be done using audio-visual media, aug-
mented reality, or virtual reality technology. An incongruity can be there
when we have a metaphorical versus a literal interpretation of a particular
scene in our real world. Augmented reality provides us with different views
on the same event. Rather than having the environment decide about the
creation of humor, we can leave it to the human participant to use this in-
formation to create a humorous event, making use of sensors and actuators
available in the environment.
We can have autonomous generation of humor by a smart environment, we
can have smart technology that suggest how to use this technology in or-
der to create such events. There are other possibilities to use the smart
technology to introduce humor. One of them is auto completion or, rather,
prediction. Machine learning methods will make it possible to complete cer-
tain activities in a humorous way, suggesting, persuading, or forcing the user
to complete his or her activities in a way that leads to a humorous situation.
The environment becomes a digital humor adviser. The adviser can become
embodied (a virtual agent or a social robot) to make it more convincing.
Rather than having agents that help in creating humorous situations we can
also think of agents that give humorous comments on events that are hap-
pening in a smart environment. The events are not necessarily humorous. A
humorous comment can be constructed by providing an alternative and op-
posing view on a particular event. In this case there is no need to implement
such a humorous view using available technology. Such an agent role can be
compared with the Agneta and Frida personas introduced in [52] who have
ironic comments on the websites a user is visiting.
5 Conclusions and Future Work
In this paper we have presented a short survey on the specific role and use of
humor in human-computer interaction. Although humor has received increasing
attention in computer science areas such as natural language processing (NLP)
and artificial intelligence (AI), it appears to be a neglected research topic in the
field of human-computer interaction (HCI). Given the significantly important
role humor has played in human social behavior and relations since the origins
of society, we assert that the proper understanding and study of humor in human-
computer interaction should be consider strategically important to research and
practice in this field. This paper is an attempt to draw special attention towards
the importance of studying humor in human-computer interaction, with special
attention to humor creation, rather to humor interpretation, as well as to the
programmatic use of humor to support and improve the user experience.
With the advent of new technologies, human social and cultural activities
have expanded from interpersonal interactions within the natural and urban en-
vironments to new environments: the cyberspace and the augmented and smart
physical spaces. Regardless of the virtual or physical world settings, the use
of humor in artificial agents (either virtual agents in the cyberspace or robots
in the physical world) is of fundamental importance to make human-computer
interaction more natural and inviting in terms of similarity to human-human
interaction. The current trend of human-computer interaction is on “humaniza-
tion”, although it is still debated in the research community. However, we rather
emphasize the focus on “humorization” of human-computer interaction, since we
believe it could improve the user experience in terms of acceptance, engagement
and collaboration.
The future work in this area should focus on strategies and mechanisms to
generate humor in different human-computer interaction settings (social net-
works, virtual agents, robots and smart physical spaces) with the objective of
improving the overall user experience. Some of the interesting research questions
to be addressed in future agenda on humor in HCI must include, but should not
be restricted to, at least the following:
What are the most effective mechanisms for humor generation in the different
human-computer interaction settings?
What are the social and cultural contexts in which different types of humor
are proper and acceptable?
How to use humor with the objective of minimizing system failure effects
and/or augment user tolerance to failure?
How to use humor in human-computer interaction to increase acceptability
and reduce/mediate social friction and social divide?
What are the most effective ways of using humor for maximizing the use and
utility of public spaces?
What is the impact of using humor in human-computer interaction towards
the treatment or prevention of mental health diseaes?
How to use humor in human-computer interaction to improve on-line edu-
cation and self-paced learning?
Human-computer interaction is becoming pervasive and ubiquitous in the
physical world and the cyberspace. It is progressively and dangerously replac-
ing most of our traditional human-human interactions. Humor is a paramount
indicator of socially desirable and positive interrelationships. The increasing use
of human-computer interfaces seems to projecting us into a dark era of human
isolation. Providing them with humor, instead, they will likely enhance our hu-
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... The performance of the traditional visual trackers are degraded with target occlusions, limited camera's Field-of-View (FoV) and illumination changes [4,5,6], whereas the audio trackers are affected by intermittent voice activities, background noise, and strong room reverberation [7,8,9]. Therefore, an audio-visual tracker with the capability of exploiting the complementarity of both modalities is highly demanded, especially under challenging and rapid-varying scenarios [10,11]. ...
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Humour: A Very Short Introduction considers the relation of humour to emotion and cognition, explores the value of humour in its social functions, and examines the leading humour theories including The Superiority Theory and The Incongruity Theory. Humour, known in every human culture, can serve many functions; it can be used to relieve stress, to promote goodwill among strangers, to dissipate tension within a fractious group, and to display intelligence. This VSI argues that humour, and the comic amusement that follows it, has a crucial role to play in the construction of communities. It also demonstrates that the social aspect of humour raises questions such as ‘When is humour immoral?’.
Aims and Scope The book is intended to provide a definitive view of the field of humor research for both beginning and established scholars in a variety of fields who are developing an interest in humor and need to familiarize themselves with the available body of knowledge. Each chapter of the book is devoted to an important aspect of humor research or to a disciplinary approach to the field, and each is written by the leading expert or emerging scholar in that area. There are two primary motivations for the book. The positive one is to collect and summarize the impressive body of knowledge accumulated in humor research in and around Humor: The International Journal of Humor Research. The negative motivation is to prevent the embarrassment to and from the "first-timers," often established experts in their own field, who venture into humor research without any notion that there already exists a body of knowledge they need to acquire before publishing anything on the subject-unless they are in the business of reinventing the wheel and have serious doubts about its being round! The organization of the book reflects the main groups of scholars participating in the increasingly popular and high-powered humor research movement throughout the world, an 800 to 1,000-strong contingent, and growing. The chapters are organized along the same lines: History, Research Issues, Main Directions, Current Situation, Possible Future, Bibliography-and use the authors" definitive credentials not to promote an individual view, but rather to give the reader a good comprehensive and condensed view of the area. © Copyright 2008 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, D-10785 Berlin. All rights reserved.
Fully revised and updated, the second edition of the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, first published in 2001, offers a source of social and behavioral sciences reference material that is broader and deeper than any other. Available in both print and online editions, it comprises over 3,900 articles, commissioned by 71 Section Editors, and includes 90,000 bibliographic references as well as comprehensive name and subject indexes. Key Features: Provides authoritative, foundational, interdisciplinary knowledge across the wide range of behavioral and social sciences fields. Discusses history, current trends and future directions. Topics are cross-referenced with related topics and each article highlights further reading
Humor has been recognized as being important in promoting people’s wellbeing and happiness. However, studies on the practical use of humor in the design process remain limited. The current work investigated the use of Giggle Popper, a set of principles for creating humorous products, as a conceptual model in the design process and examined its value for humorous product design by looking at case study projects. We observed how designers accomplished a design project involving the design of humorous water fountains using a software tool inspired by Giggle Popper. Three concepts from the Giggle Popper framework study were chosen for the investigation in order to evaluate the way in which designers developed three final prototypes: the Gas-Stove, the Hold-My-Hands, and the Slap-on-My-Face fountains. The findings suggest that Giggle Popper was helpful for improving and developing humorous products throughout the design process: including idea development, decision making, and implementation. Each principle was used interchangeably rather than independently, triggering the application of ideas derived from other principles. The principles of Giggle Popper were chosen and applied according to the characteristics of a product in order to create the proper context for humor. This paper demonstrated cases that showed how designers can use proposed design principles for real products. The findings of this study could help us to understand how designers and researchers use humor in the design process. The findings can contribute to practical design knowledge about how to create humorous products and can offer guidance on how to evoke positive emotions through products.
Conference Paper
With AI celebrating its 60 th anniversary, questions arise of when (not even if) a computational system will be able to understand humor. These questions open up interesting opportunities, but point out areas of research that yet are insufficient for informal human computer communication. This paper looks at computational humor as a way of verifying computational understanding of text (written or verbal). In particular, we treat ontology as a knowledge representation mechanism and natural language as a vehicle delivering this knowledge. A true ontology should provide a world model for the described domain, identifying its main concepts and tying them together with all relevant contentful properties. The question is how to get this model from text accurately? Assuming, as we do, that there is an accurate and unambiguous way of getting explicitly stated information from text, a lot of information is, in fact, implicit and yet crucial to the world model that we are creating. This implicit information has to be made explicit at the reasoning stage if we hope to come up with the results similar to human reasoning or understanding. In this paper, we will look at various ways, requiring optimal human-computer hybrid collaboration, in which ontology helps text understanding for humor processing, and text helps with dynamic ontology development. We hypothesize that such communication will be helpful for interaction with any computational system in a human-friendly way in general, and for robots in particular.
Practical jokes belong to the category of disparagement humor and they have been extensively investigated by social scientists for decades. Nevertheless, the available empirical results pertain mostly to human-to-human situations and little is known on the effects of pranks in the computer-mediated environment (CME). As CME encourages different patterns of reactions and behaviors than non-CME, the present study provides an experimental evaluation of consumer responses to brands that use practical jokes in their social media communication. The results reveal that high-disparagement pranks may significantly hurt brand perceptions and decrease brand affect. This effect is better predicted by prior brand attitudes than usage (i.e., the more favorable predisposition to a brand, the higher probability that a high-disparagement prank will produce a lower brand affect). No significant impact of low-disparagement pranks was found on subsequent brand responses. The findings will help scholars and practitioners in understanding this new phenomenon and in maximizing returns from humor online.
The first book to exhaustively review key recent research into playability in smart and digital cities. - Addresses pervasive games and the relation between gameful and gamified applications and the design of playful architecture - Includes special chapters on playful civic hacking applications and the use of urban data for playful applications This book addresses the topic of playable cities, which use the ‘smartness’ of digital cities to offer their citizens playful events and activities. The contributions presented here examine various aspects of playable cities, including developments in pervasive and urban games, the use of urban data to design games and playful applications, architecture design and playability, and mischief and humor in playable cities. The smartness of digital cities can be found in the sensors and actuators that are embedded in their environment. This smartness allows them to monitor, anticipate and support our activities and increases the efficiency of the cities and our activities. These urban smart technologies can offer citizens playful interactions with streets, buildings, street furniture, traffic, public art and entertainment, large public displays and public events.