AI voice, as a groundbreaking phenomenon, highlights two possible meanings that are often not problematized: the voice embedded into AI-based devices and the voice created using AI algorithms. To clarify the distinctions and the intersections of these two meanings, approaches inspired by media archaeology and social constructionism may be used to explore a social phenomenon constructed by the interaction of a discursive level of representation and a non-discursive level of material practice and operation.
The interaction of these two levels results in a tension between anthropocentrism and posthumanism–a characteristic of AI voice. Two case studies represent this tension, namely the commercial of the smart speaker Amazon Alexa and the phenomenon of voice cloning. While the first example demonstrates how at a discursive level the “voice in the machine” is represented to personify AI technology, the second, which consists in the possibility of reproducing the features of an embodied and personal voice, provides an example of how the materialization of that cultural idea depends on the technical possibilities and material practices required by data-driven algorithms.
Read on in “AI voice between anthropocentrism and posthumanism: Alexa and voice cloning” by Domenico Napolitano (Journal of interdisciplinary voice studies VII/1 [August 2022], 35-49).
Below is a video that jokingly explores the voice behind the Amazon Alexa.