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Engaging with "the other": construing sense-making practices between humans and social robots

Recording from AI Lund lunch seminar 6 June 2022

Title: Engaging with "the other": construing sense-making practices between humans and social robots

Speaker:  Valentina Fantasia, Associate Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy and Cognitive Science 

Host and moderator:  Anamaria Dutceac Segesten, Senior lecturer, Department of Strategic Communication

When: 8 June at 12.00-13.15

Where: Online

Spoken language: English


Within the past decades Social Robots have seen a dramatic improvement in their functions and possibilities for interactions. In contrast to earlier generations of artificial systems, whose programmed range of behaviours was predictable and limited, new generations of social robots can learn and adapt their behaviours through from interactional experience with humans. Still, some aspects of how such interactional process is constructed remains unexplored. In my talk, I will suggest that an important piece of the interactional puzzle on how humans engage with SR should be addressed by asking what can this engagement bring to its participants? To answer this, a perspective shift may be needed: to frame interactions as social engagements whose meaning can only be understood by the standpoint of those participating in it (De Jaegher, Di Paolo, 2008). In this perspective, interactants’ perception of their co-agent (be it a robot or a human) would be informed by their affective experience of the other as a co-interactor; that is, the experience of being moved (Bråten, 2007; Reddy, 2012) by the presence of the other, be it a human, a plant or a social robot. And in fact, for engaged participants, such a difference may not exist: people may equally treat plants or robots as intersubjective partners as they project (or depict) purposefully agentic and affective qualities to them, establishing affective dialogical connections even when the other cannot respond. Social agents perceive and act towards each other in embodied, dynamical processes of shared sense-making. Only by considering the intrinsic affective and intersubjective quality that any interactional experience brings to those engaged in it, we will understand the nature of humans’ interactions with robots as social agents.

Short bio: Valentina Fantasia is a WASP-HS Assistant Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Cognitive Science, LU. Her research focuses on investigating the development of social cognition and sense-making processes in typical and atypical infants and children. Recently, she has started to apply her theoretical and analytical knowledge to the study of human-robot interactions.