The Art of Failure in Robotics: Queering the (Un)Making of Success and Failure in the Companion Robot Laboratory
This article investigates an emerging class of contemporary machines: the robot companion. It is introduced as a robot that will accompany ‘us’ in ‘our’ human everyday lives. This article analyzes one example of how robot companionship is realized while querying how this realization might imply a change in how ‘we’ conceive of human/machine relations. Drawing on central insights into the making of the humanoid Armar, the author develops an approach to emerging human/machine relations through affects, more precisely through the affective strategies and affective labors taking place in the robotics laboratory. She furthermore suggests taking a posthumanist perspective on the analysis, which entails becoming attentive to the intra-active co-production between human and machine. Importantly, this also allows her to tweak the powerful differentiation between success and failure at work in this specific setting, the robotics laboratory. How can ‘we’ rethink human/machine relations of humanlike interaction through queering success and failure at the robot/human interface? Finally, the author suggests establishing an understanding of laboratory work on the project of the humanlike companion that takes into account the queering potential of failure – centrally by emphasizing the interweaving of knowing and affects, rather than neglecting their connection. At stake seems to be the possibility to develop visions of how to turn the capitalist endeavor of increasing rationalizations of ‘human everyday lives’ into a more responsible and accountable practice of technologization that takes into account the largely neglected dimensions of human/machine relations beyond the success/failure binary.
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