Training Set

'Training Set' is a work in progress that uses absurd humour to engage people in current debates around the use of artificial intelligence as a solution to difficult and complicated human problems such as loneliness and anxiety. It also highlights how emerging technologies can reinforce outdated gender stereotypes. The work is envisioned as a sculptural and audio installation featuring silicone casts of women’s mouths that conceal microphones and speakers connected to the internet (smart home speakers). People can talk to these disembodied mouths, to ask for information or give instructions.

‘Training Set’ mock-up sketch

Each mouth sculpture is being ‘trained’ to offer conversations on specific themes and topics. The conversation topics are based on concepts such as emotional labour (feminised 'soft skills'), reproductive health and mental wellbeing. For example, one talking mouth may be able to offer you the latest advice on freezing your eggs or on where to find a sperm donor, while the next offers a complementary therapy session. Feminised labour such as care and home/office organisational work (historically undervalued, unrecognised and underpaid) is being simulated and commodified in the emerging field of voice user interface (VUI) design.

Test models (alginate, latex, pigment, clay)

From the first chatbot program ‘ELIZA’ in the 60s, to today’s Siri and Alexa, voice assistants are feminised both as a tool of soft persuasion and due to unconscious bias - implying that female means somehow less than equal (as subservient assistant or as a machine/child/pet that requires training).

VUI technologies are becoming unavoidable: they are integrated into more and more public services to replace a paid workforce, and many people have to adapt their natural way of speaking to be understood by the machine. The project therefore also asks the question of who is training who:  VUI systems represent an attempt to optimise our capacity or willingness to produce and consume in our techno-capitalist society.

With support from Göteborgs Stad

Beskrivning på Svenska:

Det pågående projektet "Training Set" består av 4 karaktärer i form av kvinligga munnar upssatta på vägg (i silikon, latex och lera) med smarta högtalare gömda inom sig. Varje karaktär har varsin "skill" (funktion) som man aktiverar genom att säga en specifik fras. Skräddarsydda "skills" är gestaltade genom Amazon developer console (för Alexa högtalare), och dem representerar olika typer av feminiserat arbete som smarthögtalare nuförtiden försöker imitera: emotionellt och omsorgs arbete (som en digital flickvän/terapeut), reproduktion (fortplantning) samt hushållsarbete.