Accepted Paper:

Empirical imaginaries of care robots in a children's hospital  


Miquel Domènech (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Núria Vallès-Peris (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

Empirical imaginaries are proposed as a tool to look into desirable scenarios of the use of care robots in health care. Vision Assessment methods are used in order to explore fears about, and challenges of, the use of care robots in a children's hospital.

Paper long abstract:

For some time, artefacts and technologies have been used in hospitals and health care environments. However, the recent development of care robots designed to interact with people has opened some controversies. The evocative potential of robots to make us to think about our own humanity (Suchman, 2011) facilitates the emergence of ethical debates and questions related to its adequacy or desirability, especially in its use with vulnerable collectives. Some voices warn about the reduction of human contact (Sparrow & Sparrow, 2006), while other advocate designing moral machines capable to make ethical decisions (Anderson & Anderson, 2007). Beyond catastrophic or utopic scenarios of robotics in our daily life, we want to grasp those imaginaries related to the use of care robots in a children's hospital. Inspired by empirical ethics, "empirical imaginaries" are understood as tools to approach the way people envisage social and ethical controversies in the use of social care robots in a particular context, a children's hospital. To better understand these imaginaries, we conducted a set of interviews and focus groups using an approach similar to Vision Assessment (VA). In order to make possible the emergence of a more meaningful public debate on social and ethical issues, VA proposes a method to articulate visions about robotics in a direction more desirable for people, trying to overcome speculative ethics (van der Plas et al., 2010).

Panel C03
Empirical bioethics in STS. Making science, technology and society in research and deliberative spaces