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Accepted Paper:

Making Robots Social. Epistemic Practices of Social Robotics.  
Andreas Bischof (Chemnitz University of Technology)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyzes the epistemic culture of the field of social robotics. At the core of the interest are three groups of "epistemic practices" of engineers, that alternate in their different abilities to deal with social complexity: Laboratization, Staging, and Proto-Ethnography.

Paper long abstract:

Through the intended use in everyday life-worlds, social robotics becomes a discipline like architecture or product design, in which scientific, technical, political, social and aesthetic expertise intersect. Engineers who have social worlds the subject of their work, inevitably become proto-social researchers themselves.

How and by which means do researchers in social robotics deal with this? In order to investigate this, I have examined activities of social robotics in an ethnographic study (Bischof 2017). I found three groups of "epistemic practices", each of which mediates in a typical way between resistance and adaptation in developmental practice: Laboratization, Staging, and Proto-Ethnography.

Only in their interplay do the reconstructed "epistemic practices" become creatively effective for the field of social robotics. At their core, they alternate in their different abilities to deal with social complexity. An interplay of (temporary) exclusion from as well as striving for (re)entry into the complexity and contingency of social worlds occurs. The idea for a robotic application may originate from an everyday observation of the researchers, but is then transferred to an isolated laboratory scenario in order to generate a measurable effect. A subsequent exploratory user study of robotic behavior 'in the wild', can then in turn open up development practice to new complexities and contingencies. The data and machines generated in this way are then presented or circulated as a video.

This only becomes visible with an analytical perspective that does not distinguish a priori between the supposedly 'actual' research work and practices that enable and limit it.

Panel P17a
Addressing the Humans behind AI and Robotics
  Session 1 Monday 6 June, 2022, -