Mainly, the scholarly debate on Alexa has focused on sexist/anti-woman gender representations in the everyday life of many families, on a cluster of themes such as privacy, insecurity, and trust, and on the world of education and health. This paper takes another stance and explores via online survey methodology how university student respondents in two countries (the United States, n = 333; and Italy, n = 322) perceive Alexa’s image and gender, what they expect from this voice-based assistant, and how they would like Alexa to be. Results of a free association exercise showed that Alexa’s image was scarcely embodied or explicitly gendered. Rather, Alexa was associated with a distinct category of being—the VBA, virtual assistant, or digital helper—with which one talks, and which possesses praiseworthy technical and social traits. Expectations of Alexa and desires regarding Alexa’s ideal performance are presented and compared across the two country samples.



Author ORCID Identifier

Leopoldina Fortunati: 0000-0001-9691-6870

Autumn Edwards: 0000-0002-5963-197X

Anna Maria Manganelli: 0000-0002-2206-6655

Chad Edwards: 0000-0002-1053-6349

Federico de Luca: 0000-0003-3644-2954