Women Reclaiming AI for Activism

Developing a collaborative AI Voice Assistant by women for women. This project is in response to lack of gender diversity in the development of AI systems. The project aims to develop an AI voice assistant programmed through collaborative workshops with women and people who do not primarily identify as male. The project will create an AI assistant that reflects female identity, using a corpus of inspirational speech from women we admire. The project will explore possibilities for female led tech workspaces reflecting collaborative and sharing working practices reminiscent of creative female spaces such as quilting circles. The project will look for creative response by women exploring gender identity in the future of AI.

AI voice assistants like Ok Google, Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Bixby use female names, identities, voices (as a response to pressure an increasing number now have an option to change the gender of the voice to male). Studies revealed that both men and women respond more favourably to female speech and want their AI assistant to be ‘obedient and assisting.’ Culturally we are used to hearing female voices in subordinate/service roles and therefore on the whole we are more comfortable with a female voiced AI assistant. We do not want voice assistants to say ‘No’ to us – this is particularly problematic when research indicates virtual assistants find themselves fending off endless sexual solicitations and abuse from users. Some female AIs are programmed to deflect the comments, others respond with sassy, flirtatious comebacks, and some seemingly capitulate if users are persistent enough. What happen to – No Means No!?

Collaborative project with Birgitte Aga – Researcher and Creative Director at i-DAT.

The first workshop was held at Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/seize-it-mix-it-make-it-harnessing-digital-differently-tickets-45299302433