Sarah Sharma traces the rising concern over how robots, caring machines, AI, and other assistive devices reinforce gender stereotypes against the mounting public concern that the devising and development of these new technological objects will replace certain human capacities. There is an interesting tension lurking here. Have we noticed the lack of a feminist outcry over being replaced by these new devices? Instead, could it be that these new technologies do not threaten feminist politics but instead reveal the emerging power of techno-feminism? Sharma discusses the necessity of a techno-feminism of the broken machine that refuses to: a) work well rather than be gendered in a new machine; b) be extended in a new technology; or c) get drained of capacity. A Feminism of the Broken Machine is already in circulation. It is a type of feminism that cannot be re-plugged into any apparatus or mechanism of power. It fails to be recharged under the terms of a broken system.
Sarah Sharma is Associate Professor of Media Theory (ICCIT) and the Director of the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology, University of Toronto. Her research focuses on feminist approaches to technology with a particular focus on issues related to labour and time. She is the author of In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics (2014). Sharma is currently working on a new book about the gendered politics of exit and refusal tied to contemporary robotics, AI, the gig economy, and personal media-technologies. This new work fits within an ongoing research project that invigorates McLuhan’s media theory via feminist technology studies. She is currently working on an edited volume of Understanding Media which outlines a feminist take on McLuhan’s famous dictum: The Medium is the Message.