Truly peculiar traps: the figure of humanoid robots
Christina Leeson (University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
In the guise of artificial pets and humans, robots promise to be caring and responsive beings in the everyday life of people. Drawing on the idea of ‘entrapment’ (Gell), this paper explores how robots are set to entice people, through their specific material and aesthetic qualities.
Paper long abstract:
The "Robotic Moment" (Turkle 2011) is no longer on the future horizon. The idea of sociable robots is now introduced around the world in the guise of artificial pets and humans, promising to be lovable, caring and responsive beings in the everyday life of people. Robots are imagined to become friends and companions to a growing elderly population around the world and therapeutically support children with autism. In all of these areas of their existence, robots are created to act in place of a pet or another person - as a friend and as a therapeutic agent. Drawing on the idea of entrapment proposed by Alfred Gell, this paper explores how robots are set to entice and seduce people, through their aesthetic qualities and abilities to create specific moments of brilliance that dazzle people and poses extraordinary experiences to be valued in themselves. Based on ethnographic studies in a Japanese robotics laboratory and in nursing homes and activity centres in Denmark, I wish to explore how robots crafted in the image of human beings work to snare the mind of others. I propose that ethnographic exploration of such robots as they travel from the laboratory to the everyday life of people is crucial in order to understand how the process of entrapment comes into being while positioning a specific openness about human-nonhuman relations.