Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Let HAL Moderate Your Next Meeting

By Chris JozefowiczMarch 31, 2005 6:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

In business meetings and in classrooms, big talkers can drown out quieter participants. Joan Morris DiMicco of the MIT Media Lab is tackling this social problem with Second Messenger, a computer system that readily shows who is getting cut out of the conversation.

Second Messenger uses microphones to record each participant in a meeting and creates graphic displays to identify different speakers. Over time, a computer screen builds up a picture of who is doing the most talking, by representing each person as a colored bar whose length depends on how much of the time he or she took center stage. DiMicco’s tests show that when people are shown this display during a meeting, alpha types tend to pull back, although wallflowers remain relatively quiet. Simply quelling dominant voices helps restore balance and allows for more informed decision making, she argues: “It’s dangerous to have a group where everyone is saying, yeah, yeah, yeah, and just agreeing with the majority opinion, because the majority opinion can be wrong.”

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In