The track aims to gather research and insights about the (re-)constructions of human beings as natural entities through engineers' practices. Within the scope of these insights, several critical attributes are reified as natural categories (sex, gender, race, physical fitness, etc.).
In addition to certain more or less concise (re-)constructions of several attributes that are often linked with inequality, basic patterns and general references are (re-)defined in the development of innovative technologies. Especially in the above stated fields of technology developments, the involved engineers rely (implicitly as well as explicitly) on concepts whose frame of reference is founded on the opposition of nature and culture (Claude Lévi-Strauss, Philippe Descola). In this connection, technology is construed as the opposite of human beings, which are designated as "natural" entities. On the one hand, characterizing human beings as "natural" entities is used as a fundamental resource for delimiting the peculiarity and the novelty of the "new" technology. On the other hand, relying on nature and culture as extreme opposite reference points can be seen as a necessary premise for most inequality-related oppositions (Mary Douglas). Despite the fact that the opposition of nature and culture is very elementary and somehow, in this respect, also quite vague, the empirical data shows very specific uses of and ascriptions related to that basic opposition. The theme of this track could also be described as engineering's practices of "creating" or rather "doing nature" while developing technology. The irony of these practices is that while purportedly generating material for diversifying and equalizing social realities (e.g. as described in Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto"), the outcome is the often reification and permutation of stable differentiations/oppositions that are strictly linked to hierarchical relations between them.
This track is closed to new paper proposals.
Reconceptualizing the Elderly through Social Robots in South Korea
The robots designed for the elderly in South Korea rely on, propagate, and reinforce specific concepts of the elderly human. We analyze how the elderly-robot relationship is represented in design, enacted in real time, and connected to the shifting ideas about health, aging, and death.
Robots, especially the social ones, presume a certain kind of person as their users or companions. When it interacts with people, the social robot may even produce a kind of person. In this paper, we examine how the robots designed for the elderly in South Korea rely on, propagate, and reinforce specific concepts of the elderly human. Robots with different functions are expected to work with different kinds of the elderly: the sick, the weak, the sedentary, the lonely, or the demented. One of the well-known robots for the elderly is Silbot, the "dementia prevention robot" developed by Korea Institute of Science and Technology. The use of Silbot requires elderly people who are physically healthy enough to play games with the robot. At the same time, these elderly users are assumed to be at a risk of developing dementia sometime in the near future (unless they work hard to prevent it). The cognitive and social aspects of the elderly-robot relationship let the researchers put the elderly in a similar category with children with developmental disorder. We will point out that designing and testing the robots for the elderly involves placing both the elderly and the robots on a spectrum of "humanness," which creates an implicit hierarchy and tension between the two. We will then analyze how this relationship is represented in design, enacted in real time, and possibly connected to the shifting ideas about health, aging, and death in South Korea.
Ambient Intelligence (AmI) technologies at work - a degraded reconstruction of human beings in socio-technical systems
The presentation brings the reconstruction of human beings in so called "ambient intelligence working systems" into focus. Suggestion will be made for supporting a humanitarian reconstruction of self-determined human beings in such working systems.
Ambient Intelligence (AmI) technologies are becoming widespread in socio-technical working systems. Some of these are specific applications already integrated in the workflow, while others are ambitious strategies on the verge of an industrial implementation as often mentioned under the german "Industrie 4.0"-paradigm.
In the presentation, the author reflects on a definition of these systems inspired by the theory of cybernetics as presented by Heinz von Foerster.
Following this paradigm the construction or mirroring of human beings in these systems can be shown as a degraded reconstruction with extensive consequences for the labourer. On one hand in terms of his position within the power-structure and in terms of occupational stress and strain on the other hand.
Suggestion for the re-engineering of the working systems will be made for supporting a reconstruction of self-determined human beings in such working systems.
EYEBORGS, 3D BIONIC EARS AND THE IMAGINATION OF FUTURES: A CASE STUDY.
This paper presents the results of a case study conducted during a year focused to register the many ways in which young people, when they are exposed to new emergent technologies pictures such as eyeborgs and 3D Bionic ears, imagine specific futures while reshaping meanings of nature and culture.
This paper presents the results of a case study conducted during a year focused to register the many ways in which young people, when they are exposed to new emergent technologies pictures, such as eyeborgs and 3D Bionic ears, imagine specific futures while attributing different meanings to nature. The study was developed through focal groups in which the main population included was universitary students (seventy nine) from Bogota an Cali, two big cities in Colombia. The study let us to identify not just different grammars used by students to shape specific futures but different ways to reconfiguring boundaries between nature and culture. These reconfigurations are enacted in specific ways of imagining bodies in (pervaded by particular fears and hopes) futures. The research let us to capture three main reconfigurations of the meaning of nature (and its relations to culture). While "natural order" and "artificiality" appear disengaged of the conceptual domain of nature, "natureness", mainly understood in terms of familiarity, is retaken to interrogate the moral acceptability of new "cyborg" devices. In the end, these three specific attributions to nature/culture are linked to particular ways of picturing alternative futures.
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.
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 Castañeda'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.
Heroes or Cyborgs? - Wearables in Emergency Medical Services
The paper will outline how humans and social relations are manufactured in telemedicine using new audio-visual communication media and wearables such as data goggles and headsets.
This explorative paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork from a multi-disciplinary, collaborative research project that aims to better interlink the different agents within emergency medical services e.g. via data goggles. These devices shall enable emergency doctors to remote-assist paramedics in treating patients. As audio-visual telemedicine is a new example of interaction without bodily presence, the paper will outline the specific social pattern of this form of tele-action (Paul Virillio) or even remote control. This pattern involves new modes of standardization and control, but also diverse ways how users adopt, convert or reject the technology. Our fieldwork shows that incorporation of telemedicine by emergency medical personal varies a lot between organizations and relates to different organizational cultures and codes. Traditional notions of manliness and heroism common among fire services seem to contradict telemedic remote control and lead to its rejection, while other rescue services embrace the new technologies willingly and describe them as empowering rather than restricting. I will contrast these varying forms of user's adoption with the construction of "humans" in the telemedical design.
This track is closed to new paper proposals.