Guide dog versus robot dog: assembling visually impaired people with non-human agents and achieving assisted mobility through distributed co-constructed perception

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Guide dogs are sense-able agents that can assist Visually Impaired Persons (VIP) to achieve mobility. But could a guide dog be replaced by a robot dog? Based on video recordings and ethnomethodological ‘conversation analysis’ of VIPs who are mobile in a street environment with a remotely operated robodog or a guide dog, respectively, this paper shows the multisensory and semiotic capacities of non-human agents as assistants in navigational activities. It also highlights the differences between their type of agency and sense-ability, and thus their different roles in situations of assisted mobility and disability mobility. This paper contributes to research in assisted and disability mobility between humans and non-humans by showing how they work not as individual agents, but as ‘VIP + guide dog’ and ‘VIP + robodog + operator’ assemblages, and by demonstrating that these assemblages distribute and co-construct the practical perception of the material world which is necessary for accomplishing mobility.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)148-166
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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