Robot Visions

Castaneda, Claudia and Suchman, Lucy Alice (2014) Robot Visions. Social Studies of Science, 44 (3). pp. 315-341. ISSN 0306-3127

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This article explores the resonating figures of primate, child, and robot in contemporary technoscientific corporealizations of the ‘almost human’. We take as our model (in)organism ‘Lucy the Robot Orangutan’, roboticist Steve Grand’s project to create an artificial life form with a mind of its own. One aspect of Lucy’s figuration by Grand, we argue, which ties her to Haraway’s analysis of the primate, is of the robot as a model for animal, and more specifically (or aspirationally) human, cognition. We follow the trope of ‘model organism’ as it is under discussion within science and technology studies and as an ironic descriptor for our own interest in Lucy as an entity/project through which to illuminate figurations within robotics more widely. Primate and robot together are forms of natureculture that help to clarify how the categories of animal and machine are entangled, while making explicit investments in their differences from one another, and from the third category of the human. We conclude, again following Haraway, by imagining what other possibilities there might be for figuring humans, robots, and their relations if we escape the reiterative imaginary of the robot as proxy for becoming human.

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Journal Article
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Social Studies of Science
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09 Apr 2018 10:12
Last Modified:
20 Sep 2023 01:10