“‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’: Feminism in Robotic Mask Design” by Farahi

  • ©Behnaz Farahi




    'Can the Subaltern Speak?': Feminism in Robotic Mask Design



    This paper presents AI-controlled robotic masks intended to empower women and allow them to communicate with one another. These are inspired by the historical masks worn by the Bandari women from southern Iran. Legend has it that these masks were developed during Portuguese colonial rule as a way of protecting the wearer from the gaze of slave masters looking for attractive women. In this project two robotic masks seemingly begin to develop their own language to communicate with each other, blinking their eyelashes in rapid succession using AI-generated Morse code. This project draws upon a Facebook experiment where two AI bots apparently began to develop their own language. It also draws upon an incident when an American soldier used his eyes to blink and spell out the word “TORTURE” using Morse code during his captivity in Vietnam, as well as stories of women using code to report domestic abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown. The aim is to sow anxiety within the patriarchal system where the “wink” of the sexual predator is subverted into a language to protect women from the advances of a predator. The project bridges AI, interactive design, and critical thinking.


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