I find that it extremely interesting in the phenomenon of gendering technology. The best example I can think of is the iPhone’s Siri. A phone is of course an inanimate object, but I believe many of us think of our phone, especially when utilizing the application of Siri, as female. When someone asks me if I know how to get somewhere or if I need directions, I’ll sometimes say something like, “If I don’t know, Siri will know, she’ll get me there.” Siri also makes our phones not only gendered, but also more like a person. The voice doesn’t belong to a static robot.
But I should clarify that Siri is female in the United States, Australia and Germany, but is male is the U.K. and France. I find it extremely interesting at the cultural research done in each country and culture in order to determine which voice would be most appropriate for each one. Previously, I had only assumed that all iPhones came with a female Siri. This article from Tuaw gives some possible explanations for why our phones in the United States are female.
Some of what they talk about is that previous research has been shown that people just like more female voices than males. Apparently this is something that starts in our mother’s womb as Sande in the article reports. It can also go back to the fact that many Americans are used to getting telephone assistance from females, because back in the day telephone operators were traditionally women.
Which I can’t help but to question this residual tradition still being perpetuated in our technology as women being the place of assistance. Jobs such as telephone operators and secretaries, although they showed the beginning of women moving from the private sphere to the public sphere, still placed them in aiding and abiding men. So my question then is to ask, how far have we really come in American culture if subconsciously still prefer to here a woman’s voice in the role of assistant?
Perhaps I am reading too much into it. But there is a reason that Apple chose to put a male’s voice in some countries and a female’s voice in others, and I cannot help but to ask why? It seems that eventually, just like GPS voice directions (which are also set to a standard female), we will be able to change Siri’s voice in to suite our own gender and accent biases. Not that I am saying by being able to change a robot’s voice from female to male that it will culturally change anything. What I am saying that we should look at our cultural preferences and biases as a way to read between the lines of our own culture.