Parsons DT 2022 Show

Quest for a MomBot

Sheethal S

MomBot Image labeling: fire, beach, moon, night
Human image label (that MomBot can’t label): a fun mommy-son bonding night, our last weekend at the beach

Can AI make invisible labor visible?

AI has a lot in common with motherhood – invisible labor included.

Can motherhood be automated?

Can AI help mothers?

This project is a humorous discussion of motherhood during a pandemic.  The work builds on manifestos by feminists such as Silvia Federici and Judy Syfers to modern day thinkers including Sophie Lewis.  Also foundational is primary research with a variety of parents in different domestic situations.  The work is a collection of media artifacts and a series of interactive discussions sparked by explorations of a ridiculous concept – co-designing a MomBot to help with domestic labor.  It is a varied body of work spanning now 2+ years of research, thinking, interviews and prototyping to explore what needs to change in parenthood, ie: bringing up the next generation into the world.  And…most importantly, I found solidarity with moms during this challenging time.

The culmination of the work is a pamphlet, documentary and salon — a place of healing, education, catharsis and community.  Mothers in the non-gendered sense will get together, experience the research, discuss, celebrate their accomplishments, share techniques and probably, yes, commiserate over a glass of wine.  

Motherhood research

America’s Mothers Are in Crisis.  Is anyone listening to them? (short answer: no!)

2.5 million women left the workforce during the pandemic.  [Vice President] Harris Sees a ‘‘National Emergency’. “In one year,” Vice President Kamala Harris said, “the pandemic has put decades of the progress we have collectively made for women workers at risk

the only true labor-saving devices women have used in the ’70s have been contraceptives as indicated by the collapse of the birth rate, which in 1979 plummeted to 1.75 children per 1,000 women age 15 to 44.

If the government is willing to pay women only when they take care of the children of others, then women should “swap their children.”

People decide to have families and become parents. That’s something they need to consider when they make that choice.  I’ve never really felt it was society’s responsibility to take care of other people’s children.

Currently, only 23% of all employed workers in the U.S. have access to paid parental leave through their employers.

Black mothers, single mothers, and mothers with lower levels of education have significantly less access to both paid and unpaid leave.

And although most of the research has examined benefits of paid maternal leave, paid leave policies need to be directed towards caregivers in general, not just mothers. Paternity leave has also been shown to positively impact relationships within families, and that increased time between fathers and infants may help attune fathers to the needs of their infants and partners.

MomBot posters – Trying to hire a MomBot

AI as an A+ mom

Jobs that involve complex social interactions are beyond current robot skills: so teaching, social care, nursing and counseling are all likely to survive the AI revolution. (MomBot you let me down!)

Interestingly, areas of the workplace traditionally dominated by women won’t be so easily adopted by AI. Nor can robots pick up the ‘second shift’ – with women still shouldering three-quarters of all unpaid care work and doing 40 per cent more household chores according to the ONS. Robots are unlikely to assist in the ‘work’ of childrearing, preparing lunch boxes and doing the laundry. (Why not?)

Dialogue as art practice

Some questions

  • What is a MomBot / KidBot?  What would it do?
  • What, if anything, would you like to automate about your life?
  • How would you feel about having a robot in your life?
  • Would you delegate (parents) / listen (kids) to it?
  • Could a MomBot teach a kid ethics to grow up and be a good person?

The bot would be able to replicate my physical self and allow me to sneak away for 2 weeks without anyone being the wiser. 😉

Anything that can take off decision-making & planning load of parents & kids would be very welcome!

I’d make the MomBot shoulder the emotional burden of motherhood.

The bot would discipline the kids so i don’t have to.

I had my mom as “momBot”…hehe. She did everything…she was with us and took care of everything as I was always working when the kids were home. Of course, she also took care of me…

my kids have two moms, so I’d choose a DadBot to let them explore the virtual experience of whatever that means to them 🙂

MomBot (and KidBot!) A conversation about AI and parenting with kids

  • What could it do? (Chores! Piano practice!)
  • How would it fit into my life? (It would link minds with me!)
  • Who designs it? (A really good designer!)
  • How will it be taught? (By my parents!)
  • Can it teach me to be a good person? (Yes!) Wait, really?

Co-creating MomBot and KidBot – raking leaves and piano practice would be delegated to KidBot

Planning a salon for mothers. No one could come

I think my kids will be quite cross with me if I absent myself on MD! I’m waiting for the year when MD is actually about the mother, rather than the kids….or the MIL! I’ll probably need to be present for a kitchen turned upside down for breakfast (undercooked pancakes and microscopically small cubes of fruit) and dinner (homemade pizza). 

Sheethal I’m seeing another scene in your video of you holding a salon for the mums and the camera pans to an empty room 

Sheethal S

I'm a researcher. I am interested in creating spaces for participatory projects focuses on social justice research education.