I can’t help but dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but bring a work, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes ‐ all the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination. It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightning of possible storms.
Michel Foucault, in “The Masked Philosopher”, on criticism that brings ideas to life. I think that this is what research in the humanities is all about, and it encapsulates how I would like to think and write.
As promised here is my video presentation for Robo-philosophy 2014. This is based on a full length paper that I have written for a special issue of the International Journal of Social Robotics. The special issue should be published sometime in, or possibly before, early 2015.
Re-evaluating the form and communication of social robots presented by Eleanor Sandry (Robo-Philosophy 2014) from Eleanor Sandry on Vimeo.
In this paper, I re-evaluate what constitutes a social robot by employing a range of communication theories, alongside ideas of anthropomorphism and zoomorphism, to analyse how different forms of robot are interpreted as socially aware and communicative. A critical assessment of the development of humanlike and animal-like robotic companions is juxtaposed with a consideration of human relations with machine-like robots in working partnerships.
Although some traditions of communication theory offer perspectives that support the development of humanlike and animal-like social robots, these perspectives have been criticised by communication scholars as unethically closed to the possibilities of otherness and difference. However, an analysis of human relations with Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) robots and with AUR, the robotic desk lamp, demonstrates that machine-like robots are interpreted by humans as social and communicative others. This interpretation is supported by processes of tempered anthropomorphism and/or zoomorphism, which allow people to communicate with machine-like robots while also ensuring that a sense of the otherness of the machine and respect for its non-human abilities is retained.
This time last week I was preparing to present a paper for the Robo-philosophy Conference 2014 at Aarhus University in Denmark.
What was unusual about the situation was that I had spent five hours teaching face-to-face in Western Australia already that day, and my presentation was online in Vimeo, ready and waiting to be played.
I suppose it isn’t that strange any more, to present things virtually, that is. I was still in Western Australia when later that evening I did some technical tests for Skyping into the conference room, so that I’d be able to answer questions. Later still, I was online talking to people on the other side of the world about my research, having already received (and, in fact, having started my reply) to an email from a researcher sitting in that distant room. Actually it was a bit odder than that, because since the laptop for the Skype was fully wired up to speakers etc it couldn’t be turned around easily. This meant that I saw the audience briefly when I was introduced and the machine was held up so the camera looked over the room, but after that time I was talking to a blank blackboard, very aware that my huge head (on the screen, no this isn’t a comment about my massive ego) was answering the questions that people raised in the room.
I stuck around on Skype for the rest of the panel. Although it was very difficult to hear everything that the other presenters said, and I lost video part way through, it still felt good to be listening in, to be in some way at least a part of that section of the conference. This was important for me, and made the whole thing more valuable as an experience.
Theoretically, it would have been quite possible for me to present the paper via Skype, live, as it were, but I was very glad that I decided not to do this. There were two main reasons. The first related to the possibility for technical issues to arise. Presentations always run the risk of these, but Skyping from home into a conference room with a wireless internet connection felt too risky. The second was really to do with comfort. By recording the presentation I took the pressure off on the night, and I wasn’t in the position of having to present my paper live to an audience I couldn’t see very well (or possibly at all).
I’ll post the video of the presentation here later tonight.
Slideshare have decided to remove the slidecast functionality from their service, so I have been looking for a new home for my talk about human-robot teams, and sending robots into dangerous situations. I think I’ve found an alternative now, but I just realised that sharing the link on Twitter doesn’t work, since the site wants people to sign up (or sign in) in order to view the presentation. Here is an embedded version, which I hope anyone will be able to view:
This isn’t one of my best talks, which is irritating given that it’s the one I have recorded and been able to share in this way, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do something similar in the future with other presentations.