skip to content

Histories of Artificial Intelligence: A Genealogy of Power


Jenny Carla Moran is a PhD candidate pursing Multidisciplinary Gender Studies at Cambridge University's Centre for Gender Studies. She is a recipient of an AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership award, a Cambridge European & Newnham College Scholarship, and, as of 2020, a Mellon Sawyer Seminar 'Histories of AI: A Genealogy of Power' Graduate Dissertation Fellowship. Her current research entails critical analyses contributing to Science and Technology Studies, and is namely influenced by gender theory, queer of colour critique, poststructuralism, marxist theory, cultural studies, post- and de- colonial studies, and ability studies. Her academic writings have previously been published by MULOSIGE, The Derry Centre for Contemporary Arts, and J. B. Metzler (Springer Nature 2019).

Project: Loveability

My PhD research project concerns the embodiment of AI for the purposes of companionship, and the wider techno-companion industry. Examining both the production and use of humanoid techno-companions – such as care-assistive, corrective, or sexual robotic technologies – my research questions capacity-making in relation to love, alienation, exploitative labour, disability, and necropolitical debilitation. I coin the eponymous term 'Loveability' to refer to the construction of a subject as loveable (deserving of protection and care), the implications of love as a political practice (a force of communal liberation), and the limits of love as an affective experience (such as whether humans can love unreciprocating objects). Applying this theory of loveability to the design of techno-companions, the operations of the techno-companion industry, and the affective experiences of techno-companion users, my project offers a rigorously critical analysis of forms of embodied AI.

My project addresses the four themes of the seminar series: hidden labour, encoded behaviour, cognitive injustice, and disingenuous rhetoric. Though somewhat limited by fieldwork restrictions, my research intends to engage with core questions regarding the production of techno-companions (such as working conditions of factory workers, the racialisation of global capital, and the gendering of exploitative labour). Similarly, the question of affective, caring labours of love is platformed in this critical inquiry, making explicit and visible the hidden labours of both workers in the techno-companion industry and domestic feminine (caring/affective) labour. In relation to encoded behaviour, my project questions the instructions inhered in the design and programming of AI systems embodied in techno-companions, such as: how the user is expected to engage with the technology; what the technology teaches (or corrects about) the user in a disciplinary sense; and the influence of social imaginaries on the embodied aspect of prescriptive design (e.g. how is a female-gendered subject expected to perform its identity?) The affective approach of my project intervenes into cognitive injustice by highlighting the importance of typically-devalued forms of non-masculinist knowing, namely through the political force of love in community as a liberatory power in the face of capitalist alienation (and the potential disruptions of this force through the technologisation of affective care). Finally, this project was initially conceived in response to the popular disingenuous rhetoric around the production of AI-embodied robots, particularly the 'sex bots' which have so fascinated the British and US media. I address the shaping of public perceptions (and the misguidance of anxieties) surrounding these technologies, seeking to offer alternative, legitimate concerns within an adequately critical framework.

Join our Slack Channel!

To participate in conversations with scholars on topics related to your interests, please join our HoAI Slack Channel.