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Hold That Task. This is On.

INTERACTIVE VOICE Installation, 2019

Who are the people inside your virtual assistants?

What is not readily apparent to users of Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated AI assistant, is that several people at an office will listen to and transcribe every word said to an Alexa-enabled device, amounting to thousands of utterances a day. These workers are timed to the second and are required to treat all language they hear, from banalities to hate speech, as neutral data in pursuit of improving Alexa’s artificial intelligence. To make the machine appear more human, the workers are treated as machines.

Hold That Task. This is On. injects utterances of beauty into the human labor of transcribing the things people say to their Alexa AI assistants. We invite visitors to affirm the humanity of the workers on the other side of Alexa by reading to them micro works of poetry, literature, inspiration, and comedy.

Collaboration with Catherine Chen

Reviewed in Neural #65: Hold That Task. This Is On. Speaking to invisible Amazon workers