Research and Publications

Peer-reviewed publications

Fetterolf, E. & Hertog, E. (2023). It’s not her fault: Trust through anthropomorphism among young adult Amazon Alexa users. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. 

Ale Ebrahim, B., Gohring, T., Fetterolf, E., Gray, M. (2023). Pronouns in the Workplace: Developing Sociotechnical Systems for Digitally Mediated Gender Expression. Proceedings of the ACM on Human Computer Interaction, 7 (CSCW). 1-34.

Fetterolf, E. (2022). It’s Crowded at the Bottom: Trust, Visibility, and Search Algorithms on Journal of Digital Social Research, 4(1), 49–72. 

Other publications 

Teevan, J., Baym, N., Butler, J., Hecht, B., Jaffe, S., Nowak, K., Sellen, A., Yang, L., Ash, M., Awori, K., Bruch, M., Choudhury, P., Coleman, A., Counts, S., Cupala, S., Czerwinski, M., Doran, E., Fetterolf, E., Gonzalez Franco, M., … Wan, M. (2022). Microsoft New Future of Work Report 2022. Microsoft. 

Fetterolf, E. (2021, June 17). Who Cares If It’s Human? Towards a Socialist Feminist Vision for Socially Reproductive AI. engagée, 10, 31–33. 

Fetterolf, E., Walling, A. (2020, December 22). A Socialist Vision for Feminist Anti-Violence Organizing. Partisan Magazine. 

Current research projects

"Caring Surveillance and Surveillant Care in Amazon’s Alexa Together” 

Hochschild (2003) argued that individuals face a commodity frontier – the expansion of the market into intimate life as care is privatized. Amazon continues to pursue this frontier with Alexa Together, an eldercare system facilitated by the world’s most popular voice assistant. Unlike nursing or companion robots often referenced in discussions of care AI, Amazon does not purport to replace human caregivers; rather it allows individuals to “check in on loved ones with help from Alexa.” Feminist STS critiques of Alexa have focused on the VA as secretary (Lingel & Crawford, 2020), “smart wife” (Strengers & Kennedy, 2020), and domestic servant (Phan, 2019), but this new program evokes the home care worker, a heavily surveilled workforce comprised largely of low-wage women of color. I plan to explore Alexa Together’s relationship to both care and surveillance through a qualitative content analysis of its public-facing materials, including video advertisements, blog posts, FAQs, how-to videos, and customer support guides. Through this analysis, I will chart how these documents imagine the relationship between five key actors: the care recipient, the human caregiver, the “circle of support” (Amazon’s term for additional loved ones), Alexa, and Amazon itself. 

"The Human Talking Machine: Labor and Technospectacle at the 1939 World Fair" with Mary Gray

When OpenAI released ChatGPT in November 2022, journalists and tech insiders marveled at its human-like responses to myriad questions. As Microsoft and Google followed with their own AI chat interfaces, some began to draw attention to the global workforce of low-paid human labor quietly powering these Large Language Models (LLMs) (Perrigo, 2023). In this paper, we use a different cultural moment, AT&T’s 1939 World Fair exhibition of the Voder, a vocal synthesizer, to consider how narratives that anthropomorphize technologies–what we call ‘technospectacles’–paradoxically play a key role in erasing human labor. We examine the gendering and racialization of the Voder as a potent “spectacle”(Hall, 1997) through discussion of the machine’s imagined artificial intelligence. The press called the Voder an “artificial man with a voice!” (“Preview,” 1939) “a human talking machine,” (“Voder,” 1941), and referred to the device by the developers’ nickname, Pedro. However, unlike those doing “ghost work” (Gray & Suri, 2019) core to LLMs’ functionality, the human labor powering the Voder was highly visible; a group of young white women, who had undergone intensive technical training, operated the machine onstage via piano-like keyboards. We use archival methods to examine how the Voder’s public debut trafficks in both the erasure of human labor and anthropomorphism, co-constituting the technospectacular vis-a-vis media, popular, and academic discussions of the exhibition. Through this critical account of labor, race, gender, and spectacle, we hope to provide perspective on contemporary conversations about chatbots, LLMs and the human labor behind artificial intelligence.