Feminist Internet: Designing a Feminist Alexa

Marta Roncero
Jan 15 · 4 min read

I took part in a 6-week creative learning programme brought by UAL Creative Computing Institute in partnership with Feminist Internet. During this programmed we designed a Feminist Internet Alexa based in different standards of designing for equality based in the work of Josie Young: User, team bias, design and representation, conversational design and purpose.

“Feminist Internet is an organisation whose mission is to advance internet equalities for women and other marginalised groups through creative, critical practice. Internet equalities means equal rights to freedom of expression, privacy, data protection and internet access regardless of race, class, gender, gender identity, age, belief or ability. The internet holds huge potential for liberation and political transformation. However many of society’s inequalities are encoded in its structures, processes and communities. Whether it’s online abuse against women, access to jobs in the tech sector, biased data collection or the naming of chatbots, there are many issues to address. Feminist Internet is here to intervene and ensure an equal and just internet for all.”

Day 1: Persona

During the first day we worked in creating our persona, working in our team bias reflection and ideation. In order to address this design issues we worked on the standars of user, purpose, team bias and design and representation.

In groups we choose our persona, we created Agnes, she is one of over 2 million of people over 75 years old who belongs to a group marginalised from technology. She lives alone in England. She would love to meet new people but doesn’t know how. Our ‘Feminist Alexa’ would be designed for senior people who are intimidated by technology.

In line with the Feminist PIA User Standards our device would empower Agnes, by providing personalised ideas and information, helping Agnes to feel less isolated.

Once we created our persona we designed our device, PANY, a virtual voice assistant to help tackle loneliness in elderly people,

The purpose was designed in line with Feminist PIA standards, considering the needs of our identified user and reflecting on question of our team bias to not support negative stereotypes. Based on that Pany prompts the user to assess how they are feeling and provides in-the-moment, personalised recommendations of local activities as well as online cultural resources.

The appearance of Pany needs to be very user friendly . It has the appearance of a dome. The dome is often seen as a symbol of power. Following the PIA feminist standards of design and representation Pany is designed to empower Agnes with user friendly appearance where she interacts with the device by tapping.

Day 2: Storyboard + Conversation design

The second day we worked in the conversation design. As the conversation is the primary interface between Agnes and Pany the device can be configured with a number of difference voices.

We thought that Agnes would choose one inspired by Annie Nightingale who was the first female presenter on BBC Radio 1.We believe that she represents a feminist voice, in line with the Conversational Design and representation standards because Agnes finds in this voice empathy.

Here is the situation when Agnes would use Pany:

  • Agnes is feeling bored and lonely
  • She can no longer physically manage, regular trips, to see her friends
  • She wants to meet local people but does not know how to
  • The device detects inactivity through sensors, and initiates the first chat
  • After the interaction with Pany, Agnes feels more positive, and confident about meeting new people
  • She feels less intimidated by technology and is eager to use it for other things

Day 3: Prototyping + Presentation

The last day we worked in the prototype of the conversation

What I learnt

Participating in this program was a very rewarding experience where I learnt to trust the process. It was very interesting to work with people of other disciplines and backgrounds.

Marta Roncero

Written by

Visual designer + MA Interaction Design Communication student @UAL