Laboratorization of Everyday Life: Adaptations among Robots, Laboratory and Society

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Virginia Tech


By investigating the social and environmental politics that are embodied in service robots, I show how both the laboratory culture and wider society expect their own respective values and environmental cultures to displace the other. This dissertation highlights the importance of understanding how robotics laboratories and larger society mutually transform each other, using a framework I call Laboratorization of Everyday Life. I analyze how the development of robotics involves a mutual transformation of the robot, the laboratory, and particular values and norms involving education, gender, class, body image, and living spaces in the society the laboratory is embedded within. Actors in laboratories are not hermetically sealed, but fully part of society. Similarly, actors in society change their everyday environments to better conform to laboratory settings, in order to make the wider world "useful" for technological innovation. People living in modern society are actually living in a semi-laboratory, which is embedded within the robot's technological default settings regarding values and environment, which are selected by the laboratory's engineers and designers. By conducting trial and error in everyday life, robot users have agency to re-mold service robots and norms built into their design and technological capacities. That is, the users are also able to rebuild and reinterpret values and environmental cultures inside their service robots. Ultimately, my dissertation offers a potential perspective on how robotics laboratories and larger society work together through robots to open lines of trustful communication between scientific, social, and political communities.



Service robot; Robotics laboratory; Adaptation; Material environment; Scenario