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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

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Nov 24, 2020

Meet the Smart Wife—at your service, an eclectic collection of feminized AI, robotic, and smart devices. Maybe she goes by Siri or Alexa, lives in your Google Home, or is a virtual anime hologram named Hikari Azuma. These feminized digital assistants are friendly and flirty—but what impact are they having on gender equity?

Digital sociologist Yolande Strengers and media and communications expert Jenny Kennedy joined us via livestream to share findings from their book The Smart Wife: Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot. They examined the emergence of digital devices that carry out “wifework”—domestic responsibilities that have traditionally fallen to (human) wives—and are designed in male-dominated industries that have made the 1950s housewife the principal prototype for virtual helpers. They asserted that it is time to give the Smart Wife a reboot, to address how the design of gendered devices reinscribes outdated and unfounded stereotypes. Don’t miss this vital conversation with Strengers and Kennedy about how advanced technology is taking us backwards on gender equity—and a proposal for change that would promote a revaluing of femininity in society.

Yolande Strengers is a digital sociologist and human-computer interaction scholar. She is Associate Professor of Digital Technology and Society in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab at Monash University, Melbourne.

Jenny Kennedy is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, Melbourne. Her projects currently focus on digital inclusion of low-income populations, and the gendering of AI and automation in home environments.

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