Accepted paper:

Disturbingly Social

Author:

Petra Gemeinboeck (UNSW | Art & Design)

Paper short abstract:

The paper looks at the figure of the social robot through the material lens of my artistic practice. Rather than mirroring the human and desiring a servant, it asks what a social machine is as it emerges from its intra-actions with other machines, humans and the environment.

Paper long abstract:

Describing robotics engineering practices as 'doing nature' (Compagna), as opposed to 'simulating nature', adeptly heightens the labour and responsibility involved. Yet in scientific studies, nature is also often understood as equivalent to nonhuman and material, whereas the human is excluded from the material world (see Barad). In this view, what is human is somehow bizarrely removed from the material and seen as purely cultural. The figure of the 'social robot' is a particularly interesting phenomenon, as it seems to be trapped by material-discursive boundaries: not only by the nature/culture divide or the subject/object split but also by the limits of what is conceived of as social. We need, in CastaƱeda's and Suchman's words, "a more differentiated set of starting points for the [social] robot" (2003). My experimental practice as an artist/researcher aims to complicate the figure of the social robot, refiguring it as a complex entanglement, at once cultural and material (see Barad, Suchman). Rather than mirroring human form or behaviour and desiring a pleasant servant, I'm interested in what a social machine is as it emerges from its intra-actions with other machines, humans and the environment. What material boundaries does it create, shift or destabilise? In my paper, I will explore these questions through the material lens of two of my projects and their specific boundary-making practices: (1) Accomplice, which situates machine creativity in the social context of a gallery, and (2) Machine Movement Lab, which investigates movement as a key to embodied, socially situated machine learning.

panel T069
Manufacturing Humans While Developing Social Robots, Smart Environments & Wearables