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?
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.