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Conversation theory is the general study of how knowledge is constructed through interactions between parties. The parties involved can be human or non-human, including artificial intelligence entities. Conversation theory seeks to define how two parties come to a mutual understanding of concepts, or do other cognitive work through interaction.
Scientists describe conversation theory as a cybernetic discipline. Cybernetics involves the study of structures of regulation or meaning. Similar disciplines are referred to as information theory or control theory.
A dialectical approach is another term often used for conversation theory. A dialectic is a structure based on two opposing principles, ideas, or structures. In this case, the parties involved in conversation theory comprise the dialectical opposites. As in the generic dialectic process, the two parties, which are initially in a kind of antithesis, arrive at a synthesis through interaction.
Part of the theory of conversation is the search for stable reference points in communications. This helps scientists identify how meaning is gained through interactions. Those who are studying this communication of science might also create specific relationships between parties. For example, a conversational theory model could include a relationship referred to as a teacher-student relationship. Alternately, the two parties involved could be referred to as a generator and a responder, or their actions described as a dialectic of output and intake.
The theory of conversation also contemplates different types of conversation. This includes conversation based on natural language, such as humans would participate in between each other, or the use of technical languages like an object-oriented language or a meta-language; this would include items that are useful in computer programming and other kinds of technological work. Students of conversational theory might also examine concepts like libraries in their overall study of how meaning occurs between parties.
Overall, the theory of conversation is useful in informing many kinds of technologies. This idea, which was pioneered by Gordon Pask, has been useful, for example, in the concept of the “Turing test” or “Turing machine,” named after Alan Turing, where a machine’s competence is measured by how well it can mimic the conversation of a human. This kind of theory also works for creating decision support software or other kinds of decision assistive tools. Further research will help scientists be able to implement more robust versions of artificial intelligence that may create breakthroughs in many fields and industries.