Challenging Sociality? An Anthropology of robots, autism and attachment
This book explores the development of humanoid robots for helping children with autism develop social skills and is based on fieldwork in the UK and the USA. Robotic scientists propose that robots can therapeutically help children with autism because there is a “special” affinity between autistic people and mechanical things. I draw attention to the way that people with autism are presented as possessing a machinelike state and I challenge the ways in which mechanical analogies between machines and children with autism are deployed in the robotic sciences. The idea that children with autism have a preference for machines over people was developed by autism experts but is an idea mobilized and put to use in robotics; informing the field of therapeutic robotics. Autism is also seen as a gendered condition, with men considered less “social” and therefore more likely to have the condition. I explore how these experiments in cultivating social skills in children with autism using robots, while focused on a unique subsection, is the model for a new kind of commercially informed human-machine relationship for wider society across the capitalist world where machines can take on the role of the “you” in the interpersonal encounter. To understand this new relationship, I explore the history, psychiatry, clinical studies, perspectives on attachment and critical studies of autism, and the ethics of interpersonal sociality between human beings.
This work is in part funded by the British Academy and also by the European Commission DREAM project.
Citation : Richardson, K. (2018) Challenging Sociality? An Anthropology of robots, autism and attachment. New York, Palgrave-MacMillan
Research Group : Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility
Research Institute : Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)
Peer Reviewed : Yes
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