AI under feminist scrutiny

Searching for something else, I came across a 1999 book review by Tiziana Terranova of Alison Adam’s book Artifical Knowing in New Media and Society. As with much of Terranova’s incisive writing, there is a set of observations about the ontological politics of technology studies, in this case a really interesting reflection on how we might understand the issue of embodiment in relation to mediation:

…although embodiment is a foundational feminist category, it is far from being a resolved question. It is much easier to charge malestream science and technology with disembodiment than to come up with a model of embodiment which won’t stir the opposition of this or that feminist quarter. In many ways, the debate about cyberculture and technology keeps stumbling against the same block: if disembodiment is preferential bias of cybernetic technologies, how do we anser that? How do we bring back the body in cyberspace without essentializing it? Interestingly… if [we see] in Harraway’s cyborg (directly inspired by the skewed, labarynthine technologic of cybernetics) a machinic assemblage of organic and inorganics, of identity and difference, maybe [we] could have come up with a constructive, non-essentialist, embodied model of AI. Maybe it is a sad testimony of the overuse of the term ‘cyborg’ that [some are] all to ready to dismiss it as another ruse of an a-political postmodern feminism. It is a pity indeed since it seems to me that the charge of disembodiment more and more often levelled at digital culture (in all its manifestiations) has turned into the final word on the latter rather the beginning of a really different understanding of technology and subjectivity (or in this case, ‘intelligence’). Maybe we need a model of embodiment which is more about connections and partialities, more akin to cybernetics itself, to make AI work for feminists. (p. 142)

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