Since Autumn 2019 KWMC have been working with Knowle West residents and PhD students from the University of Bristol’s Interactive AI Centre for Doctoral Training to create a local voice assistant or ‘chatbot’ – like an Alexa or Siri but made specifically for Knowle West with excellent local knowledge!
The idea was inspired by the University of Local Knowledge project and aimed to build on our work with artists including Coral Manton and Birgitta Aga, which has been exploring how Artificial Intelligence can be more representative of the diversity of communities – and how local people can influence its development.
So in the spirit of co-design, before the students built anything it was important to start with what local people and those working in the area thought would be useful and accessible.
In November 2019 we held a session with local residents and members of the Knowle West Alliance to discuss ideas, as well as people’s hopes and fears relating to chatbots and Artificial Intelligence in general.
People shared suspicions about chatbots stealing data and it was clear that building trust in chatbots that are made for good would need to be done carefully and over long periods of time, ideally with community members involved at every step of the co-design process.
Everyone felt that if a chatbot could help connect community information in one place, which is often distributed across various websites, Facebook pages and noticeboards, this could be great way to help people be more connected and know what is going on. There was excitement for the chatbot to have a Knowle West accent and a sense of humour about how it interacted with you.
In March 2020 the students shared what they had made so far. The chatbot, at this point, mainly focused on sharing information about local events, rather than specific local tips or facts. Everyone agreed this seemed like a good start, but stressed the need for it to have a wide spread of data, a friendly web interface so people could interact with it easily, and ideally more of a Knowle West feel.
With this in mind, the students suggested we help collect local phrases and dialect to ensure that the chatbot sounds more authentically Knowle West.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak and temporary closure of KWMC’s buildings, the progress of the chatbot has been delayed, but the students hope to continue development when possible.
In the meantime we invite you to send your favourite Knowle West (and South Bristol) words or phrases to firstname.lastname@example.org – we’ll do our best to incorporate them into the final voice assistant!