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12th February, 2020

Resisting Neoliberal Technologies of Self-repair: Conversations With a Mental Wellbeing Artificial Intelligence About Inequality


Event Details

12th February, 2020
14:00 - 15:30
Redmonds Building, Liverpool John Moores University, Lecture Theatre 1

Liverpool Screen School Research Seminar: Dr Adelina Ong (Royal Centre School of Speech and Drama, University of London)

Wysa is a chatbot, enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI) and designed to be ‘your 4am friend and AI life coach’ supporting those who are struggling with stress, anxiety and sleep loss (Wysa 2019). Wysa also positions itself as ‘a fun way to build emotional resilience’ (Ibid.). Drawing from Sarah Bracke’s critique of resilience and Sara Ahmed’s critical analysis of happiness as a social construct for my critical framework, I will reflect on the performance of care rendered by Wysa in response to lines from Sarah Kane’s 4:48 Psychosis. Adapting from narrative inquiry as my methodology, I will feed Wysa lines from Kane’s last work. Kane struggled with depression and frequently found herself awake around 4:48am.

As a technology of self-repair, Wysa operates as an extension of neoliberal self-surveillance, where one is expected to identify negative (unproductive) thought patterns and behaviours and take steps to reframe them positively. I will critically analyse Wysa’s definition of emotional resilience and resist its efforts to reframe structural inequalities in a neoliberal framework that places the burden of change on the individual. Instead of rethinking situations positively, I will explore ways of expanding Wysa’s model of mental wellbeing through these chat sessions towards the shaping of a more socially contextualised response to depression that recognises inequality.

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