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What’s it like to be Alexa?: An exploration of Artificial Intelligence as a Material for Design

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Abstract

Technology is a material, though we don’t often perceive it as something we can easily manipulate with sensuous knowledge. In particular, we don’t consider digital algorithms within Artificial-Intelligence (AI) as a material we can design with as we generally lack the intimate knowledge a carpenter has of the grain of wood and the chisel in hand. Despite this lack of understanding, designers are contributing to the rapid implementation of AI in diverse areas, having a profound effect on the lives of millions. If designers lack a material knowledge of AI, how are they to adequately consider the desirability of its use? How do we pierce the veil of something that is perceived as intangible, where the interplay between materials and forces are obscured? In this paper, we present a design approach that utilises philosophical lenses to help designers adopt a material perspective of AI aiming towards a more considered use.