[-empyre-] Machine Dreams: Gender Bots

Margaret J Rhee mrhee at uoregon.edu
Thu May 25 15:34:50 AEST 2017

Again, and again, Mark your scholarship is so inspiring, and a model for 
me and others who seek to analyze robots and chatbots through an 
intersectional lens. The theoretical frameworks of racial formation and 
gender performativity is oftentimes elided within these conversations, 
which makes these theoretical, political, technological interventions 

I love, as you write Chatbots thereby become evocative objects for our
concepts of race and gender and sexuality and socio-economic status," 
thinking about chatbots as evocative objects. It reminds me of my 
favorite book by Sherry Turkle on evocative objects.


There is an intimacy there, with chatbots, and these objects that are 
emotionally evocative...

In the Machine Dreams Zine, we also have an excerpt from Curtis Marez 
and his book, Farmworker Futurism, which is a fascinating study of the 
historical role of technology, and the lives of farm laborers, and 
Mexican migrants in particular:

https://issuu.com/repcollective/docs/machine_dreams_issuu (page 30)

Farmwork Futurism:


Thinking of both of your's and Curtis's scholarship on machines, labor, 
and race really prompts important questions around machines and 

As I recall, Mark, at the symposium you presented with Peggy Weil, and 
both of you provided such a generative dialogue on chatbots, history, 
aesthetics, and difference. It really was a stimulating conversation on 


Are there others working on chatbots, who would like to add to this 
conversation? This is exciting, and very much hope to continue this 



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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> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
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Margaret Rhee, Ph.D.

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

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