Eliza a therapist?

After reading Janet H. Murray’s work on the four essential properties of digital media, I was somewhat confused, especially the bit on Weizenbaum and Eliza, the experimental natural language computer program in which Weizenbaum created.

In the reading, Murray describes Eliza as, ” a Rogerian Therapist, the kind of clinician who echoes back the concerns of the patient without interpretation.” (69). Now this may sound like a plausible idea, but upon further reading, Murray begins to call Eliza a “comic interpretation.” What’s confusing is that Murray calls Eliza a therapist who “echos back concerns.” So what is the overall purpose of Eliza? Does it serve as a computer programmed therapist who reflects and flips the participants questions, or is she simply programmed to parody the profession and role of a therapist?

Murray credits Eliza’s credibility due to Weizenbaum implementing “rules of discourse that   are based on the ways in which  a therapist would behave.” (73). This gives Eliza  credibility, but not so much on Murray–primarily because she never states anything on Weizenbaum’s knowledge on the subject of therapy, as well as the profession itself. I believe Weizenbaum had a general idea of how a therapist interacts when in the office with a patient. Additionally, Murray describes how Eliza processes particular words such as “everybody,” “depressed,” or “father.” It is safe to assume the reason Weizenbaum programmed Eliza in such a way is because those are a few of the fundamental words that you would hear in a therapist’s office.

It is a little hard to wrap my head around the fact that Weizenbaum created a program that is “the comic simpleton whose role is to misunderstand whatever is happening around her.” (73). I believe Murray is over-thinking, or going off a random tangent on Eliza’s purpose greatly, saying that the program was created to poke fun at therapists is a little ridiculous.

Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. The MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. pg. 65-94. 1997.