This talk reviews how the acceleration of data infrastructure development and growing adoption of data practices in everyday life are entwined with wider cultural discourses about gender and sexuality. Using artificial intelligence (AI) assistants and social robots such as Alexa and Siri as an example, it analyses these links from a feminist data studies perspective focusing on three key themes.

A smiling robot face

First, it discusses the production of gender in everyday data practices, approaching everyday interactions and the household as sites of datafication. While the household is an ideological site central in the consumption of innovative technologies and the reproduction of hierarchical gender and labour relations, contemporary data technologies introduce unique new sets of conditions.

Second, the talk examines normative inscriptions of femininity and masculinity in the design of AI technologies. Questioning binary thinking and the “black-boxing” of gender identity in data studies, it considers the role of queer subjectivity and experience in the production of scientific knowledge.

Finally, the talk reflects on recent reports of symbolic and physical violence inflicted by data, and the vulnerabilities that automation and datafication represent for women, people of colour, and marginalised communities. It examines such data harms and vulnerabilities in relation to dominant perceptions of AI assistants and robots as “social actors” to illustrate the cultural and social contradictions that the domestication of robots introduces. This way the talk reinstates central questions of power and social justice in relation to new and emerging data technologies.

About the speaker

Aristea Fotopoulou (@aristeaf) is the author of “Feminist Activism and Digital Networks: Between Empowerment and Vulnerability” (2017, Palgrave Macmillan/Springer) and currently writing the book “Feminist Data Studies: Big Data, Critique and Social Justice” (2020, SAGE).

Her research focuses on social transformations that relate to digital media and data-driven technologies, and she has published widely on critical issues of digital and emerging technologies from a feminist perspective, including the quantified self, wearable sensors and fitness tracking, citizen everyday data practices, digital media and activism, intersectionality and queer theory.

She is the recipient of a UKRI Innovation/AHRC Leadership Fellowship and presently leads the research project ART/ DATA/ HEALTH: Data as creative material for health and wellbeing. Aristea is the editor of two special issues: “Digital Culture meets data: Critical perspectives”, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies with Helen Thornham (2020), and “Queer Feminist Media Praxis”, Ada: Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology with Alex Juhaz and Kate O’Riordan (2014).

Event location

UG.04 Ground floor
University of Westminster
309 Regent Street