(Gender) Awareness in Artifical Intelligence
March 16 - April 22
The role of gender in robots has already been widely discussed in the context of posthuman and cyborg theories. Thinkers such as Donna Haraway, whose seminal work “A Cyborg Manifesto” challenged traditional notions of gender, and N. Katherine Hayles, who explored the intersection of humans and machines in “How We Became Posthuman,” have contributed significantly to this discourse. From the obviously female-gendered working-class hero Maria in “Metropolis” (1927) to the robot wives in “Japon İşi” (1987) and “The Stepford Wives” (1972), from the bodiless but violently male HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) to the seemingly genderless R2D2 and C3PO -a de-gendered and pacificized Maria- in “Star Wars” (1977), the question of whether AI can or should have a gender has been a recurring theme in science fiction literature and cinema. These fictional portrayals have not only entertained but also provoked thought and laid the groundwork for real-world exploration and debate.
The gendering of robots, computers, and artificial intelligence in the German language serves as a striking illustration of the complexities surrounding this issue. In German, terms such as “artificial intelligence” (die künstliche Intelligenz) and “the machine” (die Maschine) are assigned feminine articles, leading to a perception of these entities as female and often referred to as “she”. Conversely, “the computer” can be referred to with masculine (der Rechner or der Computer) articles, resulting in a male characterization “he”. Meanwhile, “the software” (das Programm) is treated as a neutral entity, referred to as “it.” This linguistic phenomenon highlights the intricate ways in which language can shape our understanding of gender, even in the context of inanimate objects and abstract concepts, and raises thought-provoking questions about the cultural and social implications of such gender assignments
The project, “(Gender) Awareness in Artificial Intelligence” seeks to engage with this complex question, not merely as a theoretical inquiry but as a practical and creative exploration. Through discussion rounds and workshops, participants are invited to create images that reflect their understanding and interpretation of gender in AI. Rather than portraying AI merely as an impersonal tool, this initiative delves into the philosophical, ethical, social, and cultural implications of attributing gender to a non- human entity. The format of creating images through guided discussions allows participants to engage with the concept of AI not just as a computational construct, but as an entity that might be seen through the lens of gender. Beyond merely assigning gender to AI, the discussion can be broadened to explore AI’s multifaceted role in society. This includes its societal functions (such as co-worker, servant, employer, teacher, parent, child. etc), its status among living entities (such as virus, mycelium, octopus, animal, human), its mythological characterization (such as dream, book, oracle, god, demon..), and its position in the history of art and philosophy (such as photography, impressionism, expressionism, surrealism, hyperrealism). These diverse perspectives offer a rich and complex understanding of AI, transcending conventional boundaries and encouraging a more nuanced contemplation of its place in our world. As the offspring of humanity, AI will ultimately serve as its mirror, reflecting our values, biases, and aspirations.
By challenging traditional views and encouraging participants to reflect on the meaning of gender itself, both in human beings and in our technological creations, the project fosters a deeper understanding of how gender roles and stereotypes are constructed and perpetuated. It also opens up possibilities for re-imagining or challenging these constructs.
The core of the project involves the creation of visual representations for AI that may or may not incorporate gendered characteristics. Participants are encouraged to exercise their creativity and critical thinking, portraying AI in ways that provoke thought and debate about what gender means in the context of artificial intelligence.
Aligned with broader philosophical and social inquiries, this project envisions AI as a mirror reflecting our own cultural assumptions and biases. From exploring the impact of gendered AI on social relationships to examining how it might reinforce or challenge societal norms, the insights generated by this project could have profound implications for how we think about identity, equality, and humanity itself.
Ultimately, the goal is to foster a more nuanced and critical engagement with AI, encouraging a future where technology is understood and used in ways that are mindful of its complex intersections with gender and society. By asking “”What are the various visual depictions that people imagine when they think about Artificial Intelligence?” and exploring this question through visual and dialogical means, we aim to cultivate an informed citizenry that can navigate the ethical and philosophical terrain of our increasingly technologically mediated world
Mert Akbal is a visual artist and researcher specializing in generative media art, cognitive sciences, and artificial intelligence. They create works of visual media art, including animated paintings, animations, and mapping projections, while conducting transdisciplinary research and coordinating interdisciplinary projects. Akbal’s artworks have been exhibited internationally, with some held by collectors and museums. Their research articles have been published in electronic art, cognitive science, and medical research journals and conferences. They also actively engage in knowledge-sharing through workshops and the creation of informational content with the aim of science communication