A toolkit for the future – photos and sketchnotes

A Toolkit for the Future at the V&A asked thinkers and makers to question dominant futures and imagine alternative worlds, sharing perspectives on technology, politics, and speculative design. Speakers: An Xiao Mina, Matt Jones, Jonas Staal, Kei Kreutler, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Bethan Wolfenden, Anab Jain and Luiza Prado.
Curated by @MarianaPestana_

The conference continued with a day of speculative design workshops in partnership with the London College of Fashion’s Arts Programme at their East London project space Arcade East. This day also acts as the starting point for a summer season of exploratory workshops and speculative installations and discussions by artists, designers and students around the theme of Sustainability and Innovation at Arcade East.

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Gendering personal intelligent assistants

In a previous post I asked ‘Why are we copy pasting the shitty-ness of IRL structures in digital systems?’ drawing a pyramid that represents the hierarchy of shit that sees 8% of the population owning 86% of the world’s wealth and controlling a structure of deep rooted inequality, oppression, violence and discrimination. This shitty-ness is being translated into digital systems that build on and perpetuate in real life (IRL) inequalities – see the work of Virginia Eubanks.

The digital systems we’re creating reflect the view of the world of the non-diverse privileged groups of people that create and control these systems: mostly white men. These digital systems are also layered with fantasies about a perfect world, a perfect woman, a perfect future.

The patterns of interaction we are creating in digital worlds are not only building on and perpetuating IRL dominant notions of violence and oppression, but are also reinforcing them and reshaping them back IRL. It’s the IRL-Digital loop of shitty-ness.

By looking at how women are portrayed as robots on screen, in science fiction and now as personal intelligent assistants we can make the connections between how women are viewed and treated IRL and how we are gendering our technology.


Gender in AI – a reading list

I have been reading all I could find on the topic of gender in personal intelligent assistants in preparation for a co-creation workshop I am organising with feminist internet.

Below I’m sharing all the good stuff I found. Add a comment if there’s anything missing.

We tested bots like Siri and Alexa to see who would stand up to sexual harassment – Leah Fessler (article)

Fembots – Bitchmedia Popaganda (podast) in particular Miriam E. Sweeny’s 9 minute clip about gender in virtual assistants 


Why do we give robots female names? Because we don’t want to consider their feelings – Laurie Penny

Automating Inequality – Virginia Eubanks (talk) (not about gender, but very very relevant)

Social’ Robots & ‘Emotional’ Software Agents. Gendering Processes and De-Gendering Strategies for ‘Technologies in the Making – Jutta Weber, Corinna Bath (book chapter)

The Bot Politic – Jacqueline Feldman (article)

How we trained AI to be sexist – Kerry Davis interviewing Jacqueline Feldman (article)

When Robots Are an Instrument of Male Desire – The Establishment (article)

Sex robots – Dr Kate Devlin (talk)

AI is a mirror of IRL inequalities

This blog post is a collage from relevant articles, papers etc that critically look at couple of dominant notions around social inequality embodied in Artificial Intelligence (AI):

  • Bias 
  • Decision making
    • Outsourcing decision making to algorithms via scientists and engineers
    • Black boxing AI


Resistance begins at home

The ‘Home Strike’ exhibition at the l’etrangere  stroke a particular cord with me as my work has always been focused on (first) the body, (secondly) the space of the home and the relationships people create with domestic objects.  Fast forward 7 years and my practice is still critically engaging with domestic objects, except now I am not looking at toasters or vacuum cleaners but at the Alexa. The goal remains the same: to develop a critical design practice that is socially oriented and tells alternative stories about technology from a human perspective.


Sketchnote of talk – Instagram

Below, for self-reference I’m transcribing parts of the accompanying texts that I found particularly relevant in engaging with the artists and work exhibited.


I do Research

Being at the airport always makes me think of airport themed videoclips. But this is not about that. It’s an introspective exercise about research. Might be relevant if you are a UX designer and all the flavours of that, can’t promise it will be relevant for anybody else. (more…)

Impakt Festival 2017

‘Haunted machines & wicked problems’ was the theme for Impakt Festival 2017. Tobias Revell & Natalie Kane, whose critical work focuses on relationships with technology, curated a program made of ‘artists and speakers whose imagination offers an alternative to both irrational fear and blind faith’. More specifically the program ‘examines how our relationship with technology determines, and is determined by, the stories we tell. As our technological landscape becomes increasingly complex, we are embracing myth, magic and monsters to explain our relationships with our devices.’As my own practice is about exploring the ways in which we create intimate relationships with domestic objects, I was thrilled to fly down to Utrecht to attend. (more…)