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Panel: Are we living in a Robotic Cargo Cult?


This panel highlight issues concerning robotic design in relation to social, cultural and political values. Where are the popular understanding and the core of research and applied robotics positioned? Are we living in a cargo cult, where our views and emerging designs of robots are shaped by unrealistic and potentially de-humanising science fiction fantasies? How can ArtBot projects change this? May it be the role of artists to widen our perspective of future use of robots in society?

On this theme, we invite the artists, researchers and others at Artbot to discuss concrete reflections and experiences from their own work practice. Anyone who wishes to be in the panel can email us before the event, or put their name in the "panel suggestion box" on site. Visitors will also be able to put in suggestions for others that they would like to see at the panel, and add questions that they would like to see being discussed.

As an outcome of this activity, our plan is to produce an illustrated book. The book is intended to be based the presentations and the discussions, but can also include complementing text and images that are submitted afterwards. This should work both as a form of documentation and also as a way for the participants to share their thoughts more broadly.

Examples of possible topics/questions for the book:

  • Is your robot a worker, sculpture, political statement or a mechanical toy?
  • How does your work relate to issues such as sex, violence, sustainability, economy, warfare, gender and religion?
  • Is your work intended as a provocation? Has it provoked unforeseen ethical issues or has it unexpectedly been perceived as such? Has it been treated differently in different settings?
  • In what direction would you like to influence the technology of tomorrow? What are your concerns about dystopian science fiction visions of robots, and how they relate to you hopes for the future?

The organisers of the workshop are currently active in an international research project LIREC - Living with Robots and Interactive Companions, funded by the EU. One important task in this project is to explore the ethics involved in the design and use of robot technology in everyday settings. This includes studying the use of research prototypes, but also commercial products, robots in popular media, and robots explored within the art scene.

As researchers in within the field of human-robot interaction, we see ArtBots as an ideal event for investigating the state of the art, and also to reflect on more conceptual aspects of robot technology. The works presented at ArtBots not only push the technology into new directions, but also actively challenge and search for novel perspectives on how the technology is thought of and used. We see this as an excellent place for artists to display and discuss their work together with others in the field. By proposing a focused discussion together with ArtBot artists and audience, we hope to gain a better understanding of what may be important and interesting in future use of robot technology.

Project members:
Ylva Fernaeus - SICS -
Lars Erik Holmquist - SICS/Viktoria -
Sara Ljungblad - SICS/Viktoria -
Mattias Jacobsson - SICS/Viktoria -
Nik Gaffney - FoAM -

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