[-empyre-] Machine Dreams: Gender Bots

Margaret J Rhee mrhee at uoregon.edu
Thu May 25 02:15:13 AEST 2017

I'm loving and appreciating being able to reengage again with the work 
presented, and our conversations together here! Thank you Saba and Mark!

I really love this reading of ELIZA, and I know this question of AI came 
up in Week Two, with Tung-Hui and Neil's questions on AI and labor.

More soon, but I'm still thinking of these questions of gender. Years 
ago, I wrote a short piece on the Turing Test Tournament game I helped 
design, and gender here: http://www.firstpersonscholar.com/on-beauty/

Your questions on software, and bots, and racial 
formation/intersectionality are really pressing, and covers areas that 
are not often discussed within the study and creation of bots.

Thinking of your insightful work, it reminds me of Darius Kazemi's work 
with Twitter Bots and activism too: 

This is all exciting, and love to hear what others have done in terms of 
chatbots, and the engagement with gender, race, and other markers of 
difference. Im still thinking about this all, because I do feel chatbots 
lead us somewhere needed...

On 2017-05-24 08:03, Mark Marino wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Margaret mentioned that my talk reflected on bots from the standpoint
> of intersectionality.  Along with racial and ethnic
> performances/impositions of/on chatbots, I also reflected on gender.
> Gender and race/ethnicity, sexuality, all of these arise from this
> tendency to make machines in our own image.  Noah Wardrip-Fruin's
> "ELIZA effect" (in _Expressive Processing_) which names our tendency
> to anthropomorphize software even with very little evidence of that
> humanity, draws in name from a highly charged history.  The name
> carries an allusion to power-relations and gender construction (i.e.,
> Eliza Doolittle), as re-emagined in Joseph Weizenbaum's conversation
> program, the first chatbot. Though I don't think Noah intended this,
> the ELIZA effect, points to our tendency to assign gender (and other
> identity characteristics) to computational machines -- and we do this
> to other machines as well. (Is your car/computer male or female? How
> do you know?)  Of course, the Turing Test had already intertwined the
> notion of conversational software and gender performance.
> In the case of chatbots, you begin with a machine acting like a human,
> carrying out one of our most human activities, conversing.  Humanity
> is, of course, wrapped in subject positions and intersubjective
> interactions. Chatbots thereby become evocative objects for our
> concepts of race and gender and sexuality and socio-economic status.
> But there's even more going on -- since Pygmalion-like, we construct
> these artificial others to chat with an imagined user, who is of
> course a proxy for us.  These are the bots of our dreams.
> As you mentioned, Machine Dreams engendered another conference, The
> Inadequate Human at CSUCI, organized by the fabulous duo, Soraya
> Zarook and Ande Murphy.  At that conference, I also had the chance to
> hear Joan Peters talk on the Amazon Siri, Alexa.  You'll notice the
> shared affinities with what I was discussing in what grew into her
> paper:  The “Robettes” are Coming: Siri, Alexa, and my GPS Lady
> http://hyperrhiz.io/hyperrhiz15/reviews/peters-the-robettes-are-coming.htm
> Check out that paper.  It carries these ideas even further.
> All of this leads to some questions: what does gender add to our sense
> of the robot? How is the concept of robots already gendered?  Do we
> envision gender as a software running on our hardware, evoked or
> produced through interactions.
> Best,
> Mark
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Margaret Rhee, Ph.D.

Visiting Assistant Professor
Women's and Gender Studies
University of Oregon

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