Valerie Black

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Berkeley, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9691

Approve Date

October 5, 2018

Project Title

Black, Valerie E. U. of California, Berkeley, CA - To aid research on 'Can Machines Care? Mental Health Care AI in Tokyo and Silicon Valley,' supervised by Dr. Karen Nakamura

VALERIE E. BLACK, then a graduate student at University of California, Berkeley, California, was awarded funding in October 2018 to aid research on “Can Machines Care? Mental Health Care AI in Tokyo and Silicon Valley,” supervised by Dr. Karen Nakamura. This multi-sited project investigated the human-technology relationships that underpin the creation and delivery of artificial intelligence-mediated therapeutic mental health care in the US and Japan. It entailed 24 months of ethnographic research at two mental health-focused startups: a Tokyo-based mental health videogame startup and a Silicon Valley-based mental health chatbot startup. The startup workers who implement AI mental health care include professional mental health workers who regard AI not only as a means by which to augment their capacity to help others at an unprecedented scale, but also as a singular opportunity to, as care workers, continue doing work they find meaningful while buffering themselves from the low pay and high risk of caregiver burnout that characterize most conventional caregiver jobs. This project followed the web of relationships linking the creators, users, and third-party purchasers (predominantly corporate workplaces) of AI-based mental health care services. By taking seriously the possibility that “care” is something that AI can and does provide, this project shows how AI care both enables and challenges ongoing ableism in mental health care.