David Gunkel authors textbook on AI for non-techies

David Gunkel

NIU Communication Professor David Gunkel has literally written the book on what might become the most influential area of technology development this century.

The textbook, “An Introduction to Communication and Artificial Intelligence,” is a first of its kind, according to its publisher, designed to introduce students in non-STEM disciplines to the emerging technology of artificial intelligence (AI).

This decade, Gunkel expects AI to continue to transform everything from our smart phones to our automobiles. And in subsequent decades, it’s likely to evolve in untold ways.

“Material presented in the book was developed from a course (COMS 493: AI, Robots and Communication) that I designed and taught in the Department of Communication at NIU over the past two years,” Gunkel says.

“An Introduction to Communication and Artificial Intelligence” is the “go-to textbook” for students and scholars, according to Polity, which published the book in December. An international publisher, Polity targets cutting-edge topics and thinkers, as well as books that have audiences beyond the classroom.

Says the publishing house, “In lively and accessible prose, David Gunkel provides a new generation with the information, knowledge and skills necessary to working and living in a world where social interaction is no longer restricted to humans.”

Gunkel notes that recent developments in AI introduce new challenges and opportunities for communication studies. Technologies such as social robots, machine translation of human languages, spoken dialogue systems like Siri and algorithms capable of producing publishable journalistic content are all designed to communicate with users in a human-like way.

“Social interaction is no longer restricted to humans,” Gunkel says.

“Consider, for example, the daily interactions we now have with digital assistants like Siri, Google Home or Alexa. These devices are not just convenient tools for accessing information or purchasing consumer products. They have a very real social presence in the home, and users are now asking themselves whether they should say ‘thank you’ to the device.”   

“An Introduction to Communication and Artificial Intelligence” is already being adopted and used by a number of U.S. and European institutions, including Western Michigan University and the University of Leeds in the UK.

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