Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Conference Updates...

June 5th: I presented my paper: Hacking, Hacktivism and Women: Hacking the Shadow Myth of Technology at the 2008 CCA Annual Conference hosted at UBC. I feel very fortunate to have presented on a wonderful panel comprised of:

Sara Grimes, PhD Candidate, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
Deconstructing the Girl Gamer: From the "Girls' Games Movement" to "Rule of Rose" and,

Eva Nesselroth-Woyzbun, PhD Student, Ryerson University
The cake is a lie: Defying the dysfunctional matriarch in the game “Portal.”

June 13th: I recently returned from the Netherlands, where I presented: "Looking Forward to Sociable Robots" at the 1st International Conference on Human-Robot Personal Relationships. The conference program included 19 papers and a panel discussion covering a range of human-robot relationship dimensions, including:
* Robot Emotions
* Robot Personalities
* Gender Approaches
* Affective Approaches
* Psychological Approaches
* Sociological Approaches
* Roboethics
* Philosophical Approaches

The media interest was keen, with an entire section of the conference seating reserved for media from Canada, Spain, Netherlands, and beyond.

Stories about the conference have emerged in such publications as the Chronicle of Higher Education:

How to Turn On a Robot

A man decides whether to purchase a sexbot that can say no. A female robot visits a psychiatrist to cope with an abusive human partner. A traveler stops for directions and wonders afterward if she spoke to a robot or a human.

According to presentations at the First International Conference on Human-Robot Personal Relationships, such scenarios aren't far off. This month academics from around the world met at the University of Maastricht, in the Netherlands, to discuss a not-so-distant future when robots care for the elderly, participate in the military, and are used as sex partners. One speaker gave her talk from California via a robot-mounted view screen.

The conference was organized by David Levy, author of Love and Sex With Robots. In about 40 years, Levy expects artificial intelligence to have progressed to the point where human-robot dating will be commonplace.

"Being loved by a robot?" Levy says. "It sounds a bit weird, but someday, for many, many people, being in love with a robot will be just as good as love with a human."

Conference attendees grappled with other issues of a complicated, roboticized future: Will having perfect, compliant robots make us less patient with vexing human relationships? Will using female robots for cleaning promote gender stereotypes? If you force your robot to have sex with you, is it rape?

Ron Arkin, a professor of computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology who participated in the conference, says the questions aren't spurious. Just as pornography provided incentive for the development of video recording and the Internet, Arkin says, sex will drive robotic developments. "It's gonna be here before we know it," he says. "If the questions aren't asked, the technology will just show up on your doorstep."

Other stories include:

When Robots Live Among Us (Discover: Science, Technology and the Future)

In 2050, Your Lover May be a...Robot

Who's Mating Whom? (The Times of India)


Some of my favorite presentations included:

  • Dr. Ronald Arkin (Georgia Institute of Technology) presented a paper on the, "Ethical Aspects of Personal Human-Robot Interaction."
  • Professor Sally Wyatt (Universiteit Maastricht) presented interesting insights from feminist theories of technology and STS perspectives to the field of human-robot personal interaction in a talk entitled: "Me Robot, You Jane."
  • Dr. Anne Foerst (St. Bonaventure University, New York) presented "The Community of Human and Non-Human Persons."

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