AI & SOCIETY

pp 1–12 | Cite as

Limiting the discourse of computer and robot anthropomorphism in a research group

Open Forum
  • 16 Downloads

Abstract

Social science research on the anthropomorphisms of computers and robots has been devoted to studying intellectual anthropomorphism, emotional anthropomorphism, bodily anthropomorphism, and the limits of computer and robot anthropomorphism. Although these represent important patterns for studying the anthropomorphisms of computers and robots, there are other important patterns. The limitation of anthropomorphism is one of these patterns. The limitation of anthropomorphism is a discursive practice which places limits on anthropomorphism. Discursive practices are interactional and practical activities for making sense of who and what we encounter. In this article, I analyze the limitation of anthropomorphism as another important activity to investigate. Drawing on an ethnographic study of a robotics research group, I show the importance of the limitation of anthropomorphism by documenting how it contributes to research group identity. In the final section, I describe some implications for future studies of the anthropomorphisms of computers and robots.

Keywords

Anthropomorphism Identity Robots Computers 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The ethnographic research reported in this article was supported by the University of Missouri Department of Sociology, and the University of Missouri Graduate School. In addition, I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers who helped improve the manuscript and the members of EARL for their generosity.

References

  1. Alač M (2009) Moving android: on social robots and body-in-interaction. Soc Stud Sci 39(4):491–528MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alač M (2016) Social robots: things or agents? AI Soc 31:519–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alač M, Movellan J, Tanaka F (2011) When a robot is social: enacting a social robot through spatial arrangements and multimodal semiotic engagement in robotics practice. Soc Stud Sci 41(6):126–159Google Scholar
  4. Cousineau MJ (2015) Mass media as a discursive resource and the construction of engineering selves. Bull Sci Technol Soc 35(1–2):35–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cousineau MJ (2016) Accomplishing profession through self-mockery. Sym Int 39(2):213–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barley SR (1988) The social construction of a machine: ritual, superstition, magical thinking, and other pragmatic responses to running a CT scanner. In: Lock M, Gordon D (eds) Biomedicine examined. Kluwer Academic, Boston, pp 497–539CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Breazeal C (2002) Designing sociable robots. MIT, CambridgeMATHGoogle Scholar
  8. Breazeal C, Velasquez (1998) Toward teaching a robot ‘infant’ using emotive communication acts. In: Proceedings of the 1998 simulation of adaptive behavior workshop on socially situated intelligence. Zurich, Switzerland, pp 25–40Google Scholar
  9. Brooks R, Breazeal C, Marjanovic M, Scassellati B, Williamson M (1998) The cog project: building a humanoid robot. In: Nehaniv C (ed) Computation for metaphors, analogy and agents. Springer, Berlin, pp 8–13Google Scholar
  10. Collins H (1990) Artificial experts: social knowledge and intelligent machines. MIT, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. Downey GL (1998) The machine in me: an anthropologist sits among computer engineers. Routledge, New York CityGoogle Scholar
  12. Dreyfus HL (1972) What computers can’t do. MIT, New York CityGoogle Scholar
  13. Dreyfus HL (1992) What computers still can’t do. MIT, New York CityGoogle Scholar
  14. Dreyfus HL, Dreyfus SE (1986) Mind over machine: the power of human intuition and expertise in the era of the computer. Free, New York CityGoogle Scholar
  15. Forsythe D (2001) Studying those who study us: an anthropologist in the world of artificial intelligence. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  16. Foucault M (1977) Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison (Sheridan A, Trans.). Vintage Books, New York CityGoogle Scholar
  17. Galison P (1997) Image and logic: a material culture of microphysics. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
  18. Gecas V, Burke PJ (1995) Self and identity. In: Cook KS, Fine GA, House JS (eds) Sociological perspectives on social psychology. Allyn and Bacon, Boston, pp 41–67Google Scholar
  19. Hackett EJ (2005) Essential tensions: identity, control, and risk in research. Soc Stud of Sci 35(5):787–826CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Helmreich S (2000) Flexible infections: computer viruses, human bodies, nation-states, evolutionary capitalism. Sci Tech Hum Values 25(4):472–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Holstein JA, Gubrium JF (2000) The self we live by: narrative identity in a postmodern world. Oxford University Press, New York CityGoogle Scholar
  22. Kleif T, Faulkner W (2003) ‘I’m no athlete [but] i can make this thing dance!’—men’s pleasures in technology. Sci Tech Hum Values 28(2):296–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Klowait N (2017) The quest for appropriate models of human-likeness: anthropomorphism in media equation research. AI Soc.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-017-0746-z Google Scholar
  24. Nass C, Moon Y (2000) Machines and mindlessness: social responses to computers. J Soc Issues 56(1):81–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Potter J, Hepburn A (2008) Discursive Constructionism. In: Holstein JA, Gubrium JF (eds) Handbook of constructionist research. Guilford, New York City, pp 275–293Google Scholar
  26. Prasad P (1995) Working with the ‘smart’ machine: computerization and the discourse of anthropomorphism in organizations. Stud Cult Org Soc 1(2):253–265Google Scholar
  27. Šabanović S (2014) Inventing Japan’s ‘robotics culture’: the repeated assembly of science, technology, and culture in social robotics. Soc Stud Sci 44(3):342–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Searle J (1980) Minds, brains, and programs. Behav Brain Sci 3(3):417–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Smith D (1978) K is mentally Ill: the anatomy of a factual account. Sociology 12:25–53Google Scholar
  30. Suchman LA (1986) Plans and situated actions: the problem of human-machine communication. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  31. Turkle S (1984) The second self: computers and the human spirit. Simon and Schuster, New York CityGoogle Scholar
  32. Turkle S (2006) A nascent robotics culture: new complicities for companionship. AAAI Technical Report Series Jul 2006Google Scholar
  33. Turkle S (2007) Evocative objects: things we think with. MIT, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  34. Vertesi J (2012) Seeing like a rover: visualization, embodiment, and interaction on the mars exploration rover mission. Soc Stud Sci 42(3):393–414CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Haley Center 7022Auburn UniversityAuburnUSA

Personalised recommendations