Date: 12 September 2019
Time: 12h30 – 14:00
Venues in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town (Videoconferencing facilities: see below)
Presenter: Dr Rachel Adams Social Policy, Knowledge Mobilisation, and Impact Assessment (SoKIA) research programme, Human Sciences Research Council
Chair: Professor Narnia Bohler-Muller, Executive Director, Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD) research programme, Human Sciences Research Council
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is, ostensibly, upon us. With it, advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), are rapidly becoming a feature of our everyday lives. One of the most ubiquitous AI technologies are the digital voice assistants embedded within the operating system of smart phones. Yet, these AI assistants – Siri (Apple) and Bixby (Samsung), together with Cortana (Microsoft) and Alexa (Amazon) – appear to have a gender problem, drawing on stereotyped representations of women in their design and function. In doing so, AI assistants make critical value statements about the worth of the kind of assistant work they perform, and the people that historically undertake such work. Accordingly, this presentation examines the gendering at play in digital assistants, from the use of female names and voices, to the stereotyped female characterisations constructed through the programmed responses to suggestive questions and commands. This critique is set within a history of gendered technology and the diversity challenges evident within the AI sector today, in order to foreground a larger question around digital technologies, inclusion, diversity and discrimination.
This seminar is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The views and opinions expressed therein as well as findings and statements of the seminar series do not necessarily represent the views of the DST.
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