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Rachel Withers“Alexa, are female-voiced smart speakers sexist?” Thinking about the issues surrounding gendering AI

A woman’s place is still in the home, apparently. The digital assistants filling homes across the globe—Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, and Alexa—are all “female” in voice and personality by default, ostensibly because users prefer a female voice for their assistant. But why do they, and what does having a “woman” on hand to answer every demand with unfailing politeness mean for our perceptions of women, our role, and human interaction more broadly?

 KEYNOTE  Gretchen McCullochHow Linguists Think About Informal Language 

Most language tools are trained and designed on formal language, such as books, newspapers, TV shows, and radio, but in everyday life we produce a lot more informal language, both in terms of voice conversations and written text message exchanges. How does conversation differ from the paragraphs of text that many people think of when they think language, so that conversation designers don't need to reinvent the wheel.


Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sydney and author of How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation 

Enfield is head of a Research Excellence Initiative on The Crisis of Post-Truth Discourse. His research on language, culture, cognition and social life is based on long term field work in mainland Southeast Asia, especially Laos.


Internet Linguist and author of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, a pop linguistics book about internet language

McCulloch is the Resident Linguist at Wired and the co-creator of Lingthusiasm, a podcast that’s enthusiastic about linguistics. She lives in Montreal, but also on the internet.


Senior Product Manager, Intelligent Virtual Assistant, Interactions LLC

After more than 20 years of experience in Natural Language Processing research, Michaud established herself as a thought leader in the application of conversational AI toward excellent customer self-service experiences. She holds a PhD in Computer Science and has been published in multiple international journals.


Principal UX Researcher for Emerging Technologies, Answer Lab

Geison's interest in conversational interfaces draws from his education in literary theory, careers in marketing & product management as well as behavioral health counseling, and numerous studies as a UX researcher. He has presented his work at UXRC Strive, UXPA, Radical Research Summit, VOICE Summit, VUX World podcast, and to clients in a wide variety of industries. A graduate of Brown University, Chris lives in San Francisco with his wife, their daughter, and an imaginary panther named Winston.


Freelance journalist covering politics, feminism, and pop culture, and technology

Withers is an Australian New Yorker who writes about politics, feminism, and pop culture. Rachel has a Master’s degree in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from New York University and has interned at BUST Magazine, Slate, and Gizmodo Media Group. In 2018 Rachel had a tech column in Slate which touched on gender wherever possible.