24×7 Chat Walkers : How artificial intelligence prostitutes commodify fantasy in online chat rooms

In this paper I examine how bots, computer programs written to mimic human behavior, are used by the adult industry to persuade individuals in online chat rooms to join pornographic websites. These bots are optimized to take advantage of the structure of cybersex interaction genres in order to fool chatters into thinking that they are talking with another human. Via a semiotic analysis of recorded interactions between humans and these machines as humans I demonstrate how bots rely on a chatter’s desire to be recruited into a voicing role (Bakhtin), based on cultural notions of sexuality, that gives them permission to transform their fantasies into a performative textual experience. In doing so I analyze how a bot’s user profile (identity) and response script (voice) are constructed to take advantage of preexisting stereotyped sexual fantasies and instantiate and propagate gender stereotypes. I explore how bots allow the adult industry to control both the production of fantasies and the living out of them as well. Finally, I consider the socioethical implications of these machines that “pretend” to be human. Through ethnographic interviews conducted with bot creators and chatters who interact with bots the paper explores how individuals in chat rooms react to bots and to chatters who mistake them for humans. I demonstrate how these dialogs can be viewed as part of a larger discourse on the ever expanding role of technology in our public and private lives.