2016 Project Part II:
Focussing more directly at what the cyborg
is and means, and looking at the consequential significance of combining women with machines led to the development of a series of fem-bot explorations. This evolved from Helen Hester’s analysis of devices replacing traditionally feminine work
from sixties office technologies, to the serving self check-out machines, to your own personal assistant on smartphones. The analysis resulted in the project's collection of various Intelligent Personal Assistant demos like Siri or Cortana as audio backgrounds to 50s and 60s secretary footage, showing the redevelopment of “feminised” work today. Ultimately leading to the mechanic appropriation of the female voice, Nina Power "points to a negative correlation between the rise of these recordings of female voices and the representation or recognition of actual women’s interests in the public sphere"
; where we have a "literal and overheard fem-bot voice versus an under listened to political voice"
Even though these voices have been denaturalised, they’re still degrading, and Haraway’s famous quote “I would rather by a cyborg than a goddess” has now transformed into "'I’d rather be in iPhone than a woman.'" So far, so unhelpful to the feminist.
"Natural Habitat" shows oppressed (and oppressive) female voices in media with this Siri-like mechanic speech, expressing the dichotomy of women’s representation in technological spheres.
Hester mentions that this reproductive labour (tasks categorised by not making money such as household chores) was largely invisible until the machine took it over, and the fact that this labour is now flagged up as “work”, it is no longer seen as a natural part of the woman’s personality anymore.
“In acknowledging that our devices or apps have to be actively programmed in order to mimic specific behaviours, in recognising that their feminisation is neither natural nor inevitable, but the by-product of specific histories, we are invited to rethink the ways in which non-mechanic gender might itself operate as an artificial and culturally programmed construct”
since now technologies also “do gender”