Date of Original Version
Recent examples of virtual assistant technologies designed as Latina information service workers are noteworthy objects of study for their potential to bridge analyses of Latinas’ labor history and information technology. Latinas in the United States have traditionally worked in blue collar information technology sectors characterized by repetitive labor and low-wages, such as electronics manufacturing and customer service. Latinas information service workers, though fundamental to technoscience, have been largely invisible in histories of computing. Latina virtual assistants mark a shift in this labor history by relying on the strategic visibility of Latina identity in/as the technology interface. Our research explores Latina virtual assistants designed by Airus Media, and installed as airport workers in airports along the southwestern border of the United States. We situate the technocultural narratives present in the design and marketing of these technologies within the broader histories of invisible Latina information labor in the United States. We find continuities between the ways Latinas have historically been positioned as “ideal” information workers, and the use of Latina identity in the design of virtual assistants. We argue that the strategic visibility of Latina virtual assistants is linked to the oppressive structures of invisibility that have traditionally organized Latina information service workers.
Sweeney, M. & Villa-Nicholas, M. (2022). Digitizing the ‘Ideal’ Latina Information Worker. American Quarterly. In press.