The following is copied from the personal site of Dr. Miriam Sweeney, an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Studies, a department of the College of Communication and Information Sciences:
I had a wonderful time presenting with my research partner Melissa Villa-Nicholas on one of our projects about Latina AI at the Harvard Kennedy School on March 25th. Our talk focused on “Emma”, the Latina virtual assistant used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as a part of their e-government services. This presentation explores the cultural affordances of Latina identity as a strategic design choice in the Emma interface that extends citizenship and nation-building projects for the state, while masking underlying information and data gathering capabilities.
We were privileged to have Dana Chisnell, co-director of the Center for Civic Design, serve as a moderator for our talk. We felt very welcome, thanks largely to all of the hard work and planning of Vanessa Rhinesmith, the Associate Director of digitalHKS. Thank you to everyone who came and talked with us about the politics and surveillance implications of digital technologies designed to gather information about Latinx communities.
*Watch for our paper, “Designing the ‘good citizen’ through Latina identity in USCIS’s virtual assistant ‘Emma'”, in Feminist Media Studies forthcoming this summer 2019.