Organized Panel Session
For many decades, robots have been part of a technological imagination that fuels research in the sciences and engineering in Japan. Since 2014, they have been central figures in the government’s “committee for realizing the robotic revolution,” and, since 2016, the “growth strategy council on investment to the future.” Following the long silence since the release of dog-robot AIBO in 1999, the first humanoid robot, Pepper, was introduced to the world in 2014. It is now common to see such non-industrial, sociable, communicating, and caring robots in the streets and homes in big cities like Tokyo. Importantly, these robots are becoming part of the society not only as objects but as actors. As such technologies seep into people’s everyday lives, there is more need than ever for scholars in the humanities and social sciences to pay attention to the ways that these technologies shape and are shaped by human practices.
This panel explores the practices involving non-industrial robots, and how the national "robot culture" is been shaped through governmental and corporate practices. Kovacic brings a genealogical perspective to the social sciences study of robots, whereas Wright and Nishimura share their findings of ethnographic researches on robotics use at elderly care homes, and on the community of robot application developers. We aim to provide a more nuanced understanding of robots are that are intended to exist among regular people in contemporary Japanese society, thereby contributing to the knowledge of how technology, technological imagination, and socioeconomic practices relate to one another.