In this discussion-based seminar course, we'll study language agents as agents (either human or automated) that use language (i.e., generates or understands utterances in the context of a multi-agent interaction). We'll discuss topics including (but not limited to): language and knowledge, discourse and situated dialogue, language acquisition and change, computational semantics and pragmatics, human-agent interaction, dialogue systems, and multimodal automated language agents (including computer vision, vision and language, robotics, reinforcement learning, etc.). Language Agents in Interaction will be centered around (a) reading and discussing foundational and recent work in (psycho)linguistics, cognitive science, information science, and computer science; and (b) a course project.
Readings will be roughly orthogonal to recent advancements in NLP/AI (including LLMs, etc.). While we will certainly discuss these technologies, the course will not be limited to recent language technology only, and discussions will be held from the variety of perspectives the course is intended to introduce (e.g., from the perspective of child language acquisition). We will only minimally or inadvertently discuss technical details (e.g., architectures, prompting methods) of modern approaches. This course will focus on language as an intrinsically interactive dynamical system, rather than uses of language data as a prior for an individual agent's perception, action, or decision-making in isolation from other agents.
Grading will be based on participation and a course project. See below for a breakdown of this. This is subject to change. Numerical grade to letter grade conversion will be determined near the end of the semester.
In most of the class meetings, we'll hold discussions focused on paper(s) using a modified version of the role-playing paper-reading seminar described by Alec Jacobson and Colin Raffel. The roles we will use in this seminar are described below. I (Alane) will always be one of the role representatives on any given day; I'll rotate between roles in the order below.
Before each discussion-based meeting, you will read the assigned paper(s) and put together a short summary in a slidedeck:
During each discussion-based meeting:
After each discussion-based meeting:
Through the semester, you'll be assigned as a role representative for roughly every one of the roles below. I anticipate you'll be a representative about once every other week. Since 25% of your total grade comprises this activity (which will primarily be evaluated on the presentation of your role to the class), it's strongly encouraged that you be proactive about reading, making slides, and contacting the other role members if necessary.
If you can't serve as a role representative for a given meeting, please let me know ASAP so I can assign it to somebody else.
Special responsibilities are underlined and bolded below! For all roles except the Original Author, the presentations should be under 5 minutes, so we have about 5 minutes of discussion available for each role.
After each meeting, you should post a short reflection on the paper and in-class discussions that were held. This can be pretty open-ended: my suggestion is to post a Tweet-length (~280 characters) comment or question on something in the discussions or paper that was particularly inspiring or intriguing to you (I highly recommend posing this as an open-ended research question!). Post this on the Edstem thread for the paper.
More info on the project (groups, deliverables, due dates, expectations, etc.) will be coming soon!
Enrollment in this course is currently full. In general, my expectation is that students have some existing background in NLP (equivalent to CS 288). Students should be familiar with modern AI/ML tools.
COVID is still a serious illness. Personally, I now have long-term health issues that were triggered by a COVID infection in August 2022. I strongly encourage students to wear masks in the classroom. If you would like one, I will try to have several extras with me during meetings. If you are feeling sick, please do not come to class. Feel free to email me when you are feeling better. Though students are expected to attend each class meeting, I don't expect you to attend when you are ill, and this will not count against your attendance/participation-related evaluations.
Please feel free to bring and use your laptops / other electronics to class if it helps in the discussion (e.g. to look at your paper notes) or you use it to take notes. However, I expect students to actively participate in discussion, so please don't use your laptop for non-class related things. E.g., if you are on a tight paper deadline, please let me know that you can't attend and work on the paper in an environment that would be more conducive to writing.
You can use automated tools like Grammarly, Copilot, ChatGPT, etc. However, just like I will ask for attribution in final group project reports, you need to report the use of these tools in any relevant artifacts you produce (code and writing).
In day-to-day readings and discussions, you should read papers independently, but discussions will be heavily collaborative. After-meeting summaries should be your own work. In the course project, I strongly encourage group work: however, please keep me updated throughout the semester with respect to who is in which groups, and in final project, you will need to report attribution for different members of the group (i.e., who did what). You may not copy other students' work. Academic integrity and ethical conduct are of utmost importance at UC Berkeley.
We are committed to creating a learning environment welcoming of all students that supports a diversity of thoughts, perspectives and experiences, and respects your identities and backgrounds (including race/ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, language, religion, ability, etc.) To help accomplish this:
We honor and respect the different learning needs of our students, and are committed to ensuring you have the resources you need to succeed in our class. If you need religious or disability-related accommodations, if you have emergency medical information you wish to share with us, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please share this information with us as soon as possible. You may speak with either instructor privately after class or during office hours.
The Disabled Student’s Program (DSP, 260 César Chávez Student Center #4250; 510-642-0518; http://dsp.berkeley.edu) serves students with disabilities of all kinds. Services are individually designed and based on the specific needs of each student as identified by DSP's Specialists.