Face to Interface: on stream!

Discover the three streams of collaboration in MOZART that will be the focus of the SSH research blog!

MOZART is an EU-funded research project that will deliver robotic automation prototypes for the food industry. Importantly, it approaches robotic automation through the collaboration of different stakeholders: academia, industry, and the public.

The role of Social Sciences and Humanities in this project is to deploy the tools and methods that will foster the integration of the varying perspectives, values, and aims across disciplines and fields in realizing the envisioned robotic prototypes. We use the format of a blog to trace the potentials and challenges that will arise from such ambitious collaborative work.

The blog will present how we apply these methods and insights with regards to this specific project. MOZART’s collaborative project work requires to bridge a variety of actors and communities: from SSH scholars to engineers and robotics researchers; from academic institutions and innovation experts to the civic society; from robot designers and developers to their end-users.

The blog is organized into three streams of collaboration in MOZART that the SSH team identified:

1. Interdisciplinary research in the making

In this stream, we will focus on the process of realizing interdisciplinary collaboration as a trademark of MOZART. We discuss methodologies for interdisciplinary research between social sciences, humanities and engineering, with a focus on “integrative” (Fisher et al. 2015) approaches.

All steps of realizing the MOZART technology, from design, development, to implementation, will be characterized by the constant integration of the perspective of all stakeholders involved in this project. The documentation and discussion via a research blog will allow us to both reflect this integrative approach as much as to provide practical tools of interdisciplinary research work in robot interfaces design, given the example of the MOZART technologies.

What tools for interdisciplinary collaboration can most effectively contribute to the realization of a MOZART-specific integrative approach?

2. HRI, automation, and emotions: Do (not) fear the robots!

In this stream, we will discuss the role of emotions from two interlinked dimensions: the dimension of cultural narratives around robotic automation and the dimension of designing, innovating, and deploying human-robot interfaces of collaboration. This entails to trace emotions such as fears of robotic automation as it articulates on both scales: that of cultural narratives and imaginations and that of interacting at the human-robot-interface.

Furthermore, we identify three complementary articulations of fear around robotic automation: one, emotions related to the introduction of robotic automation (i.e. “fear of job loss”); two, emotions related to failure to introduce robotic automation (i.e. “fear of falling behind”); and three, emotions of alienation, being overwhelmed, or more generally of a mismatch at the interface. To investigate these emotions in the context of MOZART, we will bring together theories and methods from the History of Emotions, the Anthropology of Emotions, Affect Theory, Feminist STS, Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) design research.

How and when do these fears actualize in the MOZART project work? What societal needs, tensions, and expectations inform these emotions?

3. HRI interfaces – Histories, presents and futures of human labour divisions at the factory

In this stream, we will discuss the relevance of the global, gendered, colonial, capitalist labour division in the context of MOZART, in order to situate the sociomaterialities of the HRI interface at the factory from an intersectional feminist perspective.

One focus will be on historical insights into the role of female workers in the food industry. This includes to present and discuss sources from the History of Technology, Women’s History, and Labour History. Another focus will be on the ‘surrogate human effect’ of robotic automation and how this is deeply entrenched in the sexist and racial ‘grammar’ of technoliberalism (Atanasoski & Vora 2019).

Whose work is going to be surrogated? And: What symbolic and material threads link the lived experiences of female food industry workers from the past with workers impacted by MOZART?

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