Accepted paper:

Wag the dog - how robotics configures care situations


Andreas Bischof (Chemnitz University of Technology)

Paper short abstract:

The paper reconstructs how practices of care and nursing are configured by robotics. The findings show, that a high degree of institutionalization of care and nursing helps to conceptualise "users" as passive objects that are part of highly rationalised routines, similar to a "total institution".

Paper long abstract:

Home care and nursing are some of the most prominent examples for Human-robot interaction (HRI). The paper starts from this observation and reconstructs, how care and nursing are indeed areas of application that are particularly well suited to the needs of robotics. Based on ethnographic studies and interviews in social robotics laboratories, the epistemic conditions of robotics for care are reconstructed in a first step. In a second step, cases of care and nursing robots are anaylzed for their configurations of use and users (Woolgar 1990, Oudshoorn et al. 2004). It becomes apparent that most care robotics projects does not search for problems in care practice to solve, but rather for ways to implement previously defined robotic solutions - a "post-hoc" orientation in epistemological terms (Knorr Cetina 1984). The situational analysis (Clarke 2005) shows further, that the high degree of institutionalization of care and nursing practices is the first and foremost working point for roboticists in care. The "users" in those "scenarios" usually appear as passive objects that are already involved in highly rationalised routines, like inmates of a "total institution" (Goffman 1973). This reduction facilitates the development and implementation of a robot scenario insofar as the the "tasks" to be completed and the constellation of actors involved are definable in a rigorous manner. The paper closes with a methodological assessment of the reconstructed practices and refers to the wider question, how social situations and interactions can be captured and conceptualized adequately with the epistemics of computer science and engineering.

panel E05
Assembly, silence and dissent in the design and use of gerontechnologies