(Re)Imagining the Techno-Body: Artificial Intelligence, Embodiment, and the Technological Future Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Woods, Heather
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
  • This dissertation illuminates how gendered stereotypes are leveraged to the benefit of corporations that market and sell artificially intelligent objects. In particular, the research shows that these AI objects traffic in normative gender roles of the feminine as caretaker, mother, and wife in order to obfuscate modes of surveillance, and mediate the relationship users and potential users have with late-capitalist market logics in the platform economy. Mobilizing essentialist feminine personas, artificially intelligent objects orient users to engage productively with surveillance capitalism as ‘natural.’ To illustrate this relationship between the feminine and surveillance, this dissertation focuses on two case studies. The first turns to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa as emblematic of AI VA that perform a stereotypically feminine persona that invites users to participate in increasingly intimate forms of data exchange that in turn contribute to surveillance capitalism. The study of AI VA, like Siri and Alexa, demonstrates the significant rhetorical capacities of the feminine persona as they are applied to objects with weak (that is, limited) artificial intelligence. In the second case study, I demonstrate how fictive representations of general AI also utilize normative conceptions of the feminine to gesture to the ‘human.’ Through a critical rhetorical reading of the films Ex Machina and Her, this research shows that even an imagined future of artificially intelligent bodies relies upon and re-inscribes patriarchal conceptions of the feminine in the technological present and future. In addition, focusing on gendered narratives and stereotypes, these dystopian films, much like Siri and Alexa, distract from, and even normalize the rapid development of systems trading in surveillance capitalism.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Tufekci, Zeynep
  • Silva, Kumarini
  • Mumby, Dennis
  • Monahan, Torin
  • Lundberg, Christian
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2017

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