The social accountability of an animaloid robot: organizing an O-space of humans, a dog, and a robot

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People ordinarily organize themselves in spatial positions in such a way, that embodied interaction is made possible. Kendon (1976) described this as an f-formation whereby people create a joint transactional space termed an o-space to which they alle have access. The f-formation is produced through co-operative spatial and postural actions by which people create and maintain this o-space. The organization of f-formations has been studied in human-robot-interaction (Due, 2021; Yousuf et al., 2019). But what happens in situations, where the robot has animaloid features and one of the agents in situ is a dog? This paper is based on video ethnographic data from an outside semi-experimental setting studying how the four-legged mobile robot Spot, manufactured by Boston Dynamics, is used by visually impaired participants as a “guide dog” for navigation. The robot is semi-autonomous: controlled by a human operator (through a joypad steering) and with its own autonomously adjusting micro-movements based on its own sensors. The robot is autonomously responsive to humans (and other objects) through distance measurement and obstacle-avoidance. The paper is based on an in-depth analysis of a case in which seven people are engaged in the setting as researchers and observers along with two people with visual impairment, one of them with a guide dog. In the setting that will be analyzed, the participants are talking about practical issues of the experiment such as the navigational route. Two examples will be explored: the opening and pre-beginning where the robot is verbally and bodily included in the O-space, and the closing where the robot is treated as unwelcome and removed from the O-space. The analytic focus is not on any single participant or non-human agent alone, but rather on the co-operative and jointly achieved configurations of the o-space in the presence of the mobile animaloid robot, that is controlled by an operator. The phenomenon studied is participants interactional, and pragmatic constructions of the robot’s participation status (Goffman, 1964), in particular participants bodily actions and orientation to and verbal accounts for the dog’s orientation to the animaloid “robodog” – this will further be discussed as a complex organization of the operator+robot as an assemble (Due, 2022). The data is analyzed using EMCA methodology and contributes to new understandings of human sociality as embedded in contexts of non-human agents. The analytical findings are used to discuss the social accountability of mobile robots’ as “participants” that take up spatial positions in o-spaces. This work thus contributes to EMCA studies of social robotics and mobile spatial organizations (cf. Mondada, 2009) by exploring an un-researched type of robot (animaloid) and its participation status within the social encounter.

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Yousuf, M. A., Kobayashi, Y., Kuno, Y., Yamazaki, K., & Yamazaki, A. (2019). Social interaction with visitors: Mobile guide robots capable of offering a museum tour. IEEJ Transactions on Electrical and Electronic Engineering, 14(12), 1823–1835.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateMar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022
EventInternational Workshop, “Museum, Multimodality and Embodiment, Sociological Robotics”
- Online
Duration: 22 Mar 202222 Mar 2022


ConferenceInternational Workshop, “Museum, Multimodality and Embodiment, Sociological Robotics”

ID: 327299127