Voice control and interfaces

I looked a lot at the way touch interfaces function for my paper, but one thing I didn’t get to think about too much is the way other types of interfaces function as media and the way they interact with our culture. Other than touch, voice definitely seems like the most significant way we interact with technology. But I connected our use of touch to the individualist nature of our culture, and I think this same aspect has the potential to prevent widespread use of voice, just because any interaction in the presence of other people will automatically include them.

Another interesting angle to look at these interfaces from is the way they’re gendered. I noted in my paper that technology in general seems to be gendered female and that this has something to do with the masculinized, controlling position of the user, but I think this relationship takes on additional significance when we think about it specifically in terms of voice. It’s notable that most voice assistants have their own explicitly female character that is even named — such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa — and while the Google Now voice assistant doesn’t have a name, its default voice is still female. This is made even clearer in numerous YouTube videos of people asking these machines somewhat sexual questions and receiving answers.

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Voice control and interfaces

Nintendo touchscreen ads

I wanted to share these Nintendo DS commercials, centered around the tagline “touching is good,” that I looked at for my paper. The first three in particular are notable in the way they overtly sexualize the screen and the type of touch that’s associated with it — David Parisi’s article “Fingerbombing, or ‘Touching is Good’: The Cultural Construction of Technologized Touch” (available online from the library catalog) is excellent for thinking of these — but some of the others are interesting as well.

Nintendo touchscreen ads

Bodies as media

Toward the end of the class we started to talk more about the way bodies themselves are media and the way they are read, and connecting it to recent news stories about Caitlyn Jenner. I think this idea of reading of the body as a medium based on different signifiers is quite interesting in this context and is something that would be worth thinking about more.

One related issue that didn’t seem to come up but that I think is interesting to add to this discussion is the way people need so badly to be able to interpret bodies in this way, and that they particularly need to classify them into two categories based on socially constructed notions of “biological sex.” This comes up in the practice of operating on intersex children to bring them in line with societal standards and, for that matter, in any attempts to classify people based on their body parts – and for many people, the fear that their visual ability to read bodies is jeopardized, they turn to invisible markers, like chromosomes, in hopes of achieving simple categorization, although they again attempt to ignore intersex variations in these attempts. It would be interesting to think more about the reasons behind this need to categorize and the discomfort when categorization fails.

Bodies as media

Real L Word’s removal of reality

I wanted to share this Autostraddle article about their conflict with The Real L Word that I came across while researching the show for my presentation. I wasn’t able to fit it into my presentation directly, but basically a character on The Real L Word was involved in an Autostraddle photoshoot as a model and the producers of the show wanted to film it. Despite not being the biggest fans of the show, Autostraddle agreed to allow the filming on the condition that they were credited in the show, but Showtime proceeded to remove any mention of Autostraddle before it aired. It seems like there is something exceptionally ironic in the way a reality television show has gone out of its way to remove reality from its content and obscure the name of a website. It also reminds me of the discussion about how reality television defuse the impulse for action, since the removal also removes a link between watching the show and accessing a website with political content that might lead to further action.

Real L Word’s removal of reality