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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Relationality, hybridity, awareness : being with AIBO Hall, Lauren


I have been exploring relationships with technologies and the robotic dog AIBO for over a year. A documentation of my experiences culminated in my AIBO Research Journal, which is an outcome of autoethnographic methodology. For a portion of the year, I worked with five participants who observed and recorded their interactions with technologies and AIBO. My own developing relationship with AIBO and observations prompted questions about potential curriculum design. Other research has shown that many people give animalized and anthropomorphized robots greater moral standing than other technologies. I asked whether the cyborgenic qualities of AIBO, in that it is dog and machine-like, could stimulate perceptions of raised moral standing, not only towards the robot, but towards other technologies as well. My concern arises out of the need for humans to become aware of their relationships with technologies and the effects of these relationships on ourselves, others, and environments. I used design-based research methodology to construct an environment in which participants engaged with technologies and AIBO and used phenomenological reflection to observe effects of the interactions. These observations were collected in journals, audio and video recordings, and interviews. With this data and a range of other sources, an ethnographic picture was generated that gives a sense of the ways people interact with technologies and AIBO. My research offers an account of human-technology and human-robot relationships, but also tests curriculum design that emphasizes awareness of ourselves, nonhuman animals, and environments. Donna Haraway and Bruno Latour, among others, emphasize a view of relations that promotes thoughtful ways of understanding relationality, otherness, and being. Theories on hybridity, cyborgs, and companion species are major guides for this work. I found that people have many different ways of relating with technologies and AIBO, which suggests the ambiguity and interconnectedness of human-technology and human-robot relationships.

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