Taiwan has many social problems, including a low birthrate and labor shortage. In order to deal with these issues, some people hope that robots may play a robust solution. One of these robots, Pepper, is under the spotlight, because it is a humanoid social robot designed to express and read human emotions. In this context, my question is: what kinds of images of social robots do media construct for the Taiwanese public in order to shape the human-social robot relationships? Through archival research, I divide media treatments of Pepper into five categories: education, promises, reality, problems, and metaphors. News in the education category is fact-telling or educational news. In the promises category, news media not only indicate the Pepper’s functions, abilities, services, but also portray Pepper as a solution for social problems. In the reality category, news media report on Pepper’s functionality and limitations. In the problems category, news media point to problems Pepper might cause, including a higher unemployment rate and reallocation of wealth. In the metaphors category, I consider the metaphors media use to construct particular discourses and images of Pepper, such as a master/slave model power relation and gender. Based on business interests, technological determinism, and techno-optimism, these discourses compose the public imagination of techno-futurism media create. This techno-futurism is telling the Taiwanese people a technological science story about hopes, threats, and relations. Those Pepper images and discourses build the dominating understandings of social robots in Taiwan.
Pepper News media Taiwan Social robot
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Thank Anthony Szczurek and Kristen Koopman. Without their help, I could not have finished this paper. I especially thank Dr. Saul Halfon and three anonymous reviewers. Their comments helped me clarify and improve my arguments.
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