Exploring Gender and Technology Through

bouncerarcheryAI and Robotics

Nov 14, 2013 (3 years and 6 months ago)

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Exploring Gender and

Technology Through

Objectives


In this curriculum unit, students will explore and
experiment with the notion of gender and its
relationship to technology using popular science
fiction as an interpretive lens.


Resources:


Novel,
The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
by Ursula Le
Guin


Terminator franchise including,
The Terminator
(1984),
Terminator 2
(1991) by John Cameron and
Terminator:
The Sarah Connor Chronicles

(2008


2009)

Gender, Technology, and Sci
-
Fi


Using science fiction as a reflection of popular
consciousness, we will look at the relationship
of gender and technology from two
perspectives:


Gender’s influence on technology development
and direction


Implications of anthropomorphizing gender
-
based
characteristics to technology (specifically Artificial
Intelligences)

Part 1
-

The Impact of Gender on
Technology Development


The Left Hand of Darkness

by Ursula Le
Guin



Genderification of Technology


In Cases 1 and 2, we explored the masculine
genderification of technology due to the
historical dominance of men in the technology
fields.


In this unit, we will explore what a more
gender
-
balanced technology would look like,
thinking back to our reading on Mary Kirk’s
notion of a technology “partnership future.”

The Social Context


The
Left Hand of Darkness,
written in 1969


The Sexual Revolution (change in attitudes toward
sex)


The Women’s Movement


1966 establishment of the National Organization
for Women (NOW)


A variety of groups focused on “consciousness
-
raising” around women’s issues

Science Fiction: Beyond Extrapolation

While some science fiction extrapolates on a
certain aspect of society and takes it to a
logical extreme, other works ask “what if”
questions, allowing us to explore aspects of
ourselves in ways that are good for
“consciousness building.”


From introduction to
The Left Hand of Darkness

In the
Left Hand of Darkness
, Ursula
Le
Guin

gives us the opportunity to
explore technology in a gender
-
balanced society providing a
contrast that may help us
understand the role of gender and
sexuality in our technological
development.

The Left Hand of Darkness


Androgynous race of humanoids


Kemmer Cycle (estrus cycle)


Remainder of the time “Somer” (asexual)

Gethenian Culture


Always live in Year One (all other dates are
relative to “now”)


Believe progress is less important than
presence


There is no rape or war, but here is still murder,
torture, and slavery


Cultural differences without gender differences


They are in a cold war which has the potential
to become “hot”

Politics: Two Countries on Gethen


Karhide


Monarchy


Individualistic


Political


Monarch characterized

as “insane”


Orgoryen


Bureaucratic


Ruled by “
commensals



Same word for individual and group (a la “soviet”)

Gethenian Technology


Somewhat advanced


Simple telephones, radios


Reference to plastics factories and collective farms


“Stun” guns


Vehicles that do not exceed 25 MPH


They could build faster vehicles but choose not to


Fire places heat homes


the “Hearth”


Hearths are symbolic of friendship, family connections,
and village community

Genderless Technology on Gethen


How might Gethenian technology be influenced by
lack of sexuality in their general interaction (Somer
state)? Or their gender
-
balanced nature?


How do gender differences and sexual tensions drive
technological advancements in our world?


Purposes (what would it be used for?)


Character (what interfaces and design reflect gender?)


Use of Resources (how about sustainability?)


Fragility (or durability?)


Social Efficiency (optimal distribution of resources in
society, i.e. fairness?)


Part II


Implications of anthropomorphizing gender
-
based
characteristics to technology

(specifically Artificial Intelligences)


Terminators: Humans, Machines and
Cyborgs

Science Fiction: About Extrapolation


Some science fiction takes an idea and brings
through its next logical steps. Many popular
science fiction narratives revolve around an
Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) that exceeds human
intelligence. The Terminator is just one
example of an A.I. that “get’s smart.”

The Context


The Singularity
-

Ray Kurzweil


The technological creation of smarter
-
than
-
human intelligence


Technology will be able to “improve” itself by
rewriting its code, and develop at an exponential
rate


This will change everything, making

prediction difficult


How close is the singularity?


Akiba

Robot (2006)

http://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbFFs4DHWys


Toyota’s violin playing robot (2008)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzjkBwZtxp4&feature=re
lated


Human
-
Robot Jazz Improvisation (2009)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTxCE0JYFtM


Watson (2010)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyXHF3PyyWo&feature=
fvst


Kevin Warwick University of Reading 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCYrW
-
G9Y6I




Technology and Feminism


“Feminists have often assumed the role of opponent of
technology, a role that seems to have developed out of the
equation between women and nature prevalent in Western
society.”


SF Author, Ruth Nestvold


“... my cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent
fusions, and dangerous possibilities which progressive people
might explore as one part of needed political work …most
American socialists and feminists see deepened dualisms of
mind and body, animal and machine, idealism and
materialism in the social practices, symbolic formulations, and
physical artifacts associated with 'high technology' and
scientific culture.”
-

Cultural Theorist, Donna Haraway



Gender in the Terminator


Sarah Connor
-

Madonna figure


Mother of John Connor, savior of humanity


Takes on “hard and cold” characteristics as she evolves


Throughout terminator series, humans become less
human, and machines become more human


Edwards, P. (1997)
Terminator meets Commander Data:


Cyborg Identity in the New World Order

Cyborgs


The cyborg exists as an ambiguous figure, part
reality, part fiction, and part metaphor


in the
crossover between science, technology, SF,
and cultural theory.

-

Murphie and Potts,
Culture and Technology

Terminator 2 (1991)


In
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
a converted
Terminator model is sent back to protect John
Conner from a more updated model.


Terminator completes the Connor “nuclear
family.”


Edwards, P. (1997)
Terminator meets Commander Data:


Cyborg Identity in the New World Order

Terminator TV Series (2008


2009)


Young “female” Terminator model is taken in
by Sarah Connor to protect John Connor from
aggressive “male” Terminators.


Video Clips of Cameron


One of the most frightening things about a
Terminator is when it mimics human
emotions… or is this part of the learning
humanity?



Terminator Cameron in Counseling Session


Terminator Cameron Ballet Dancing


Neil Postman’s Critique of
Technology: A Deal with the Devil


“Anyone who has studied the history of
technology knows that technological change is
always a Faustian bargain: Technology giveth
and technology taketh away, and not always in
equal measure. A new technology sometimes
creates more than it destroys. Sometimes, it
destroys more than it creates. But it is never
one
-
sided.”

A.I.s Represent

Lost Innocence and Temptation

Machines in these stories are often

presented as physically attractive
presenting a seductive and insidious
advancement/marriage of technology and
humankind
.

Discussion Questions


What would our relationship be to a super
intelligent artificial intelligence?


If an artificial intelligence is initially based on
the human mind, what would be the influence
of ascribing gender characteristics?

Further Reading


A Door into Ocean
by Joan Slonczewski


Autopian novel that includes an intriguing view of (implied
feminist) technology: an all
-
female world that has a
biological technology, that is connected to a holistic, long
-
view, non
-
violent, ecological philosophy.


Women on the Edge of Time
by Marge Piercy


A feminist utopian novel of a woman communicating into
the future who is important in determining whether a
gender balanced utopia or a male driven dystopia is
dominant.


Work Cited

Edwards, P. (1997)
Terminator meets Commander Data: Cyborg
Identity in the New World Order

Hall, J. (2006)
Beyond AI: Creating the Consciousness of the Machine.
Prometheus Books, New York

Haraway
, D "A Manifesto for
Cyborgs
: Science, Technology, and
Socialist Feminism in the 1980's,"

Socialist Review

80 (March
-
April
1985): 65
-
108.

Killjoy M. and Stanley Robinson, K. eds. (2009)
Mythmakers and
Lawbreakers

Le
Guin
, U. (1969)
The Left Hand of Darkness

Murphie
, A. and Potts, J. (2003)
Culture and Technology

Nestvold
, R "Male"
Technology, Feminist Dystopias and the Promise of
Cyberspace
German Association for American Studies in Hamburg,
June 1995.