Relating to the Internet of Things


In a piece published last year in this magazine, Charles Hannon made a compelling case for careful thinking about how the words used by AI interfaces such as Siri and Alexa signal inferior status. The way we—or our AI interfaces—use pronouns and other parts of speech is an important means of signaling status. The more pronouns used, the lower the status. This relationship correlates with gender; Hannon points to research that shows that women typically use more personal pronouns than men. And so the default female voice of Alexa and other AI interfaces, from that of Siri to a Garmin GPS, stumbles over itself, inserting extra I‘s to signify its lesser status relative to us superior humans. This provides a powerful insight into how we relate with objects in the Internet of Things. But new work by Donna Hoffman and Tom Novak of George Washington University provides a complementary way to think about how AI design can shape our interactions with smart objects.

full article:  Bean, Jonathan. “Relating to the internet of things.” interactions 25.1 (2017): 24-25

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