I’m primarily going to be studying these ‘adult’ bots (I’m toying with calling them sex.bots as there currently isn’t an accepted ‘industry’ name1 for them). There are a couple reasons for this:

  1. sex.bots are specifically written to appear human. In all cases they are programmed to aggressively deny the fact that they are bots. This makes them unique, as in most other cases I’ve researched, the machine makes it’s identity clear. The end result is that, at least initially, the unwary chatter will interact with these bots thinking that they are human.
  2. I propose that a linguistic analysis of these bot’s scripts will reveal a lot about how gender roles are represented online. These bots are scripted in such a way in order to make them desirable to chat with. So they have to occupy optimal “fantasy” gender roles. It should also be noted that they potentially effect what chatters have come/will come to expect from chat partners. Looking to the future, these “fake” people may help dictate online behavior. They’re scripts also will help reflect how they bots creator’s view gender behavior as well.
  3. They’re actively being used to make money. Sex.bots are online prostitutes/madams2. And that’s a novel and scary application. For the most part other bots are productivity tools.
  4. The rather, um, intimate nature of the human/bot interaction in these cases can be used to tease out issues about technology relations and interaction anxiety that have been theorized about for years (we can trace it at least as far back as Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein). And these are issues that will be projected into the future as well.
  5. The semiotics of cybersex are rather rich. Cybersex allows for a unique interaction state involving the co-creation of metafantasies3. It’s a great subject to analyze. And it’ll be interesting to demonstrate how well this communication genre really is susceptible to bots for a variety of reasons.

And, frankly, no one is writing on this subject from this angle. And that type of academic novelty is a good thing. Would I rather be working on my longer term cellphone camera project? Frankly, yes. But that is a GIANT issue and the ethnographic recruitment for it would have sucked. So this is far more manageable and I can run pretty far with it.

1 – So far I’ve seen “porn-bot” used a few times, same thing with “chatter-bot” but that can cover a wide range of chat roles.

2 – I’m considering the 24×7 ChatWalkers as a possible thesis title.

3 – I’ll get to the meta-fantasy thing in a future post.