USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘technology’
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Alexa Tells A Joke

BACKGROUND:

In recent years, Amazon has launched a produce called the Amazon Echo. The AI “personality” that the Echo conveys is even given a familial name, Alexa. The device is used to serve as a home assistive device, with the capabilities of setting timers, controlling lights, and even convey bits of folklore. Because Alexa has access to a massive database of different bits of information, the device can retell a joke it “heard” from someone else. I decided to test this and ask a device to tell me a joke. In return, I was told a joke that started out sounding like a historical fact (a function the Echo is often used for) and flipped my expectations by ending it with a pun.

“INTERVIEW”:

My “interview” with my source and artificial storyteller, Alexa, went as follows:

Me: Alexa, tell me a joke.

Alexa: As the old story goes, someone sees a reflection of the moon and mistakes it for cheese… un-brie-lievable!

MY THOUGHTS:

Due to the fact that this is a machine with no actual purpose other than to serve its users, I concluded that this source’s identity did not need to be kept anonymous. There is no legal obligations that a user needs to serve Alexa given that its personality is based off 1’s and 0’s, not actual emotions. I still find it extremely fascinating that this device is able to convey bits of folklore, just like a human can. I wanted to explore this concept and see what would happen. I felt like a joke was a good place to start. I’ve heard a version of this joke before but never told like this. I love the way it plays off the fact that it is a machine, in that it starts to convey the joke as a fact, much like it normally conveys facts, and then turns it around and ends with a punchline. This variation of the joke is a fun way in which modern technology can influence the world of folklore.

Folk speech

Dongle

The folk term “dongle” requires a bit of history. When the iPhone 7 came out, Apple announced that they had removed the headphone jack from the bottom of the phone. To work around this, they sold adapters that would allow people to plug headphones into their new iPhones. The folkspeech that refers to these adapters was described to me by a friend outside of a party.

“A dongle now is, is referring to the dongle that allows you to listen to music with your regular, like, three, like your regular eighth inch adapter, your aux adapter into your iPhone, which doesn’t have that port anymore. And if it were called adapter, people would just, it would, it would sort of be a normal thing. But because it’s like, ‘Aw, man, I don’t have the dongle with me,’ or something, like, ‘I can’t listen to music now.’ It’s just like, I think it really is a derogatory – or at least it has a bad connotation to it.”

“The word ‘dongle’ to me has always been adapter. I don’t know when it started. Uh, I’d say that the connotation of dongle, as opposed to adapter, is negative, right? Like a dongle is sort of like something that is like unwieldy, that you don’t wanna be carrying around.”

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