Siri is not just an assistant, but a friend too

According to Chun, operating systems offer us an imaginary relationship to our hardware by producing “reassuring sounds” such as the chimes the computer makes when logging in, to offer us pleasure and power. She also claims that names like “my documents” and “my computer” produce the feeling of ownership, that the computer is addressing you specifically. “Computer programs shamelessly use shifters, pronouns like “my” and “you” that address you, and everyone else, as a subject. Software is based on a fetishistic logic” (Chun)
In Apple’s first advertisement for Siri, watch how Siri beeps to indicate she is listening and when she is finished speaking and addresses the user by name or nickname.

Just as Rosey the robot cooked dinner for the family, Siri pulls up recipes and sets a timer for the woman cooking in the kitchen. Additionally, the Jetsons treated Rosey like a member of their family — the children especially loved her, and felt she was their friend. George even mistakes Rosey for his wife at one point, kissing her on the cheek when he gets home from work.

In the Apple commercial, when the man driving in his car tells Siri to text his wife that he’s going to be 30 minutes late, Siri becomes a liaison between the man and his wife. But Siri does not resemble the switchboard operator, for she is not connecting the man to his wife. Rather, he speaks to Siri instead of speaking to his wife.

Siri also reads a text message from Sandy Chen to the girl sitting on the couch. Siri asks Sandy’s question, “are we still on for dinner tonight?” The girl tells Siri to reply, “Sure, I’ll be there.” The text exchange between Sandy and the girl has developed into a vocal exchange between Siri and the girl.

In both of these instances, Siri has replaced the need for real human interaction. She is also given the power to speak for real people.

Apple designed Siri to be treated like a real person. According to a Wall Street Journal article from October 2011,

“When Apple began integrating Siri into the iPhone, the team focused on keeping its personality friendly and humble—but also with an edge, according to a person who worked at Apple on the project.” (WSJ 10/2011)

As Apple’s engineers worked on the software, they were often thinking, “How would we want a person to respond?”

“The Siri group, one of the largest software teams at Apple, fine-tuned Siri’s responses in an attempt to forge an emotional tie with its customers. To that end, Siri regularly uses a customer’s nickname in responses, as well as those of other important people and places in his or her life. “We thought of it almost as a person on the phone.” (WSJ 10/2011)


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