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Touch future x ROBOT: examining production, consumption, and disability at a social robot research laboratory and a centre for independent living in Japan

Berthin, Michael (2014) Touch future x ROBOT: examining production, consumption, and disability at a social robot research laboratory and a centre for independent living in Japan. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

This thesis contributes to anthropological discussions on the relationship between production and consumption by engaging in multi-sited ethnography that investigates the design of social robots in cutting-edge Japanese research laboratories and also explores the day-to-day lives of Japanese disabled people who are potential consumers of such devices. By drawing on these disparate groups, located in disparate sites, this thesis traces connections but also disconnections as it analyses the 'friction' between the technical problem-solving of researchers and the organized activist politics of disabled people. It investigates the rationales of robot research, messy and multiple, as well as the material and political impetus behind the 'barrier free' movement for independent living. Social robots hold a special interest in Japan because not only do many people, both inside and outside of Japan, believe that the nation has a unique cultural interest and affinity for robots, but, with an ageing population, the Japanese state has looked toward social robots as potential care-givers and as a solution to the 'demographic crisis'. Through the engagement of both science and technology studies and disability studies, this thesis focuses on the theme of problems to show how the problem-making approach of robotics researchers, which identifies problems of the body as a disability to be solved by a technical fix in the form of a robot, contrasts with the perspective from disabled people themselves, who see disability as a problem of society and the environment rather than the individual and the body.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Michael Berthin
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Stafford, Charles and Astuti, Rita
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/1010

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