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CS886 | Persuasive Technologies Winter 2010

Organizational Meeting:
Tuesday January 12 2010 2:00-5:00
DC2306C (AI Lab Conference Room)

All course sessions will be held in the AI Lab conference room (DC2306C)
Copies of each text will be available for short-term loan at the DC Library Circulation Desk.

Course Overview

Persuasive technology has recently emerged as a new discipline, with the potential to affect all aspects of the way in which people interact with computers. In this course, we will look at the variety of ways in which persuasion occurs in computer systems, from the effects of social media, to use in applications like mobile services for healthcare delivery and persuasive games.

This course is intended for anyone who is interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of persuasive technologies, both theories and applications, and has a curiousity about the social and technical implications of this new field.

Participants should be willing to read widely and fairly deeply on a weekly basis. One-page position papers (credit/non-credit) will be assigned to provide opportunity for writing practice and creative thinking. There are no formal prerequisites other than interest in the topic and ability to read and analyze technical material.

Grading will be based on weekly one-page position papers (20%); a class presentation and participation (30%); and participation in a class project (50%).

Position papers will address questions related to rhetorical theory, models of persuasion and argumentation, computer system design and implementation, and social implications. For each position paper there will be several questions from the above themes from which students will choose one to address. You may write all your position papers within one of the topic streams, or mix-and-match.

Both non-programmers and non-linguists are encouraged to take the course. Project teams will be made up of team members who have complementary skills: those with either linguistic background or programming skills will be assigned to tasks suited to their skills, and graded accordingly.

Auditors are welcome but will be expected to write at least one position paper and to participate in discussions.

If you are interested in this course and would like to do some background preparation on your own, the following textbook is recommended:

B.J. Fogg
Persuasive technology: Using computers to change what we think and do,
Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2003

DC Library Short-term loan call number: UWD 1478


Course Project: A Multimedia Personalized Virtual Health Coach

In the class course project we will use the Virtual Human Toolkit from the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies ( to create a virtual automated personalized health coach. The project will involve a variety of skills and expertise. Students can choose to focus on particular aspects, including: user modelling; creating models of health rhetoric and persuasion; designing and implementing natural language and multimedia software tools; and more.


Course Outline

SESSIONS 1 to 3 The Nature of Persuasion

Session 1: Course Organizational Meeting/What is Persuasive Technology?

Tuesday January 12 2:00-5:00 DC2306C


(for optional fun) Jay Heinrichs
Thank you for arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson can teach us about the art of persuasion,
Three Rivers Press, 2007.

DC Library Short-term loan call number: UWD 1463

B.J. Fogg
Persuasive technology: Using computers to change what we think and do,
Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2003.
Reading: Chapters 1 (Overview of Captology) and 3 (Computers as Persuasive Tools).

DC Library Short-term loan call number: UWD 1478


Course Administrivia: pdfPDF

Session 1 Position Paper: pdfPDF

Sessions 2 and 3: Models of Rhetoric and Persuasion

Tuesday January 26 2:30-5:00
Wednesday January 27 2:30-5:00 ***Note date


William M. Keith and Christian O. Lundberg
Essential guide to rhetoric,
Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008.
Reading: Skim all (a short book).

DC Library Short-term loan call number: UWD 1493

J.P. Dillard and M.W. Pfau (eds.)
The persuasion handbook: Developments in theory and practice,
Sage Publications, 2002.
Reading: Chapter 16 (Persuasion and the study of affect).

DC Library Short-term loan call number: UWD 1461


Sessions 2 and 3 Position Papers: pdfPDF

SESSIONS 4 to 6: Personalization and Adaptive Technologies

Tuesday February 2 2:30-5:00
Tuesday February 9 2:30-5:00
Tuesday February 23 2:30-5:00
Tuesday February 23 Class Project Meeting

Session 4


Nancy Green
"Generation of biomedical arguments for lay readers", International Natural Language Generation Conference, 2006.

Judy Segal
Health and the rhetoric of medicine, Southern Illinois University Press, 2005.
Reading: Skim introduction, read Chapter 2.

Alison Cawsey.
"Natural language generation in health care", JAMIA, 4, 473-482, 1997.

Sesson 5


V.J. Strecher, M. Kreuter, D-J. Den Boer, S. Kobrin, H.J. Hospers, and C.S. Skinner.
"The effects of computer-tailored smoking cessation messages in family practice settings", Journal of Family Practice, 39(3), 1994.

Ehud Reiter, Roma Robertson, and Liesl M. Osman
"Lessons from a failure: Generating tailored smoking cessation letters", Artificial Intelligence, 144, 41-58, 2003.

The HealthDoc Project: A Class Simulation of a Tailored Health Coach:

Session 6


Peter Brusilovsky, Alfred Kobsa, and Wolfgang Nejdl (eds.)
The Adaptive Web: Methods and strategies of Web personalization, Springer, 2007.
Reading: Chapters 6 (skim) (Personalized search on the World Wide Web) and 15 (Adaptive information for consumers of healthcare).

DC Library Short-term loan call number: UWD 1499


Sessions 4 and 5 Position Papers: pdfPDF

Session 6 Position Paper: pdfPDF

SESSIONS 7 and 8: Mobile Persuasion

Tuesday March 2 2:30-5:00
Tuesday March 9 2:30-5:00


B.J. Fogg et al.,
Mobile persuasion: 20 perspectives of the future of behavior change,
Stanford Captology Media, 2007.
Reading: Selected chapters on mobile health persuasion.

DC Library Short-term loan call number: UWD 1501


Sessions 7 and 8 Position Papers: pdfPDF

SESSIONS 9 and 10: Persuasion and Social Media

Session 9: Social Media

Tuesday March 23 2:30-5:00


(Tentative) Discussion on persuasion and social media from: B.J. Fogg, The psychology of Facebook (not released yet).

Session 10: Persuasive Games

Tuesday March 30 2:30-5:00


Ian Bogost
Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames,
The MIT Press, 2007.
Reading: Chapters 1 (Procedural Rhetoric) and 11 (Purposes of Persuasion).

DC Library Short-term loan call number: UWD 1502

From a book review:
Bogost argues that videogames, thanks to their basic representational mode of procedurality (rule-based representations and interactions), open a new domain for persuasion; they realize a new form of rhetoric. Bogost calls this new form "procedural rhetoric", a type of rhetoric tied to the core affordances of computers: running processes and executing rule-based symbolic manipulation. He argues further that videogames have a unique persuasive power that goes beyond other forms of computational persuasion. Not only can videogames support existing social and cultural positions, but they can also disrupt and change those positions, leading to potentially significant long-term social change.

Final Session: Class Demonstrations

Date and Location

Tuesday April 13 1:30-5:00
Critical Media Lab, 191 King Street West, Kitchener (across from City Hall).