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Accepted Paper:

Social Robots as Experimental Systems: Science, Performance, and Artificial Sociality  
Frederik Vejlin (Aarhus University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper builds on fieldwork in Japanese robotics laboratories and discussions of sociality and experiments in anthropology and STS to explore the entanglements of experimentation and performativity in the design and development of socially interactive robots.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I build on fieldwork in Japanese robotics laboratories and d to examine the making of socially interactive robots and their use as experimental apparatuses. Specifically, I consider two issues that figure in discussions among roboticists and critics of the field alike. The first concerns the simulation of human sociality in artificial systems. I argue that having the replication of sociality as the benchmark for success in social robotics is likely misguided (cf. Breazeal 2002). Instead, I suggest understanding social robots as experimental systems that enact alternative forms of sociality and, in doing so, also reconfigure what human sociality is and can be. I propose the concept of artificial sociality to sketch the enactments of such experimental reconfigurations. The second issue concerns the relation between experiments and social life outside the lab. Here, I compare the use of role-playing in a laboratory experiment with the experimental approach known as android theatre (see Chikaraishi et al. 2017) to explore the interface between studies in the laboratory and "in the wild" (Šabanović et al. 2006). I follow Steven Brown's (2012) reflections on the art and science of experimentation in social psychology to suggest that HRI experiments do not require 'realistic' reproductions of social life. Instead, they can produce different kinds of 'artificial' performances that enable novel investigations of sociality impossible by other means. Finally, I discuss how the performative dynamics of experiments contribute to discussions of human-robot relations in anthropology and STS.

Panel P02
Social robots, scientists and the Anthropology of the Post-Human: exploring the entanglements of the social robot industry and the shaping of anthropology, beyond the human.
  Session 1 Thursday 9 June, 2022, -