Lifestream, Liked on YouTube: If we create female robots as perfect women, how will this affect us?

via YouTube

This video, made for a school project by Eva Oaks (a graduate in robotic facial design at Utwente), asks what the impact of “perfectly” formed female androids will be on women. Oaks highlights the body image anxiety which seems to be a cultural bi-product of our time, and the increasingly young ages and high rates at which many women are undertaking plastic surgery to “improve” their appearance [links to Miller’s (2011) assertion about the increasing plasticity of the body]. Fast forward to a time in which androids exist alongside humans: what is the impact of this on body anxiety? How will definitions of beauty be influenced?

Important questions which lay bare the cultural complexity of ever increasing technologies.

Miller, V. (2011). Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.

2 Replies to “Lifestream, Liked on YouTube: If we create female robots as perfect women, how will this affect us?”

  1. Renee , I work with dancers of all ages and I teach in a variety of educational settings. However, I particularly work with teenage girls in High School and most young girls that I come across have insecurities about their physical appearance. Through conversation I am overwhelmed at how many wish they looked like they did on social media. Through numerous apps, and online make up tutorial the girls have created a perfect image of themselves for the world to see. Looking through their online activity the girls seem confident, enthusiastic and proud of their identity. The comparison to women online is unfortunately causing the next generation to not only have insecurities but they are depressed that they do not look like their online avatar. I am left perplexed that pupils are suffering from depression and readily willing to undergo surgery to alter their physical appearance; like they do through their smartphone apps. If surgery and augmentation is starting earlier, will we have women in the future looking perfect, or will their be implications and the perfection will only be through technology?

  2. Thanks for sharing your insight, Linzi. Your experience highlights the complexity of influences on body-image anxiety. You’ve encouraged me to do a little more research, in an attempt to pinpoint what it is about social media that has such an influence. Richard Perloff (2014) suggests that reasons social media has such an impact include:

    -the 24/7 availability of social media allows ‘for exponentially more opportunities for social comparison and dysfunctional surveillance of pictures of disliked body parts than were ever available with the conventional mass media’ (p. 366)

    -based on social comparison theory, ‘upward social comparisons with attractive peers can actually lead to more negative self-attractiveness ratings than comparisons with attractive advertising models, who are perceived as less similar and therefore a less diagnostic comparison group (Cash et al. 1983)’ (p. 369)

    It’s probably also significant that appearance is critical within the many of the commonly held values of “today’s youth” (in inverted commas because (a) my data is old – 2007 and (b) I’m not sure such a generalisation is fair): in 2007 the top-ranked values were fame, achievement (defined as ‘being very successful’), popularity, image and financial success (Uhls & Greenfield, 2011).

    It’s worth noting that in attempting to identify the cause of the changes in tween values Uhls and Greenfield identify that changes in communitarian values (i.e. these were top/second-ranked in surveys 1967-1997) correlate (time-wise) with the ‘explosion of communication technologies’, increased Internet access and the advent of social networking sites such as YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.

    So – you asked if will we have ‘perfect’ women or will the perfection just be lived out digitally. Good question. I suspect both.

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