Imagining public space robots of the near-future

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In this paper we discuss how people understand robots when they imagine relations with such technologies in near-future settings. We argue that imagination forms an important part of the assemblage of robotic technologies, because it is central in how people relate to, understand and feel about robotic bodies, behaviours and intent. As we will show, the terms in which people imagine robots as relational emerge from the contexts of their activities, their potential effects on people, and also what people already know and feel about these and other technologies. We discuss insights from a study that asked research participants to discuss whether robots ‘feel right’ in different public space settings. Building on growing scholarship in robot geographies, we show how imaginative responses to robots are located in dynamic relational configurations that draw together the contexts, appearance, behaviours and perceived intentions of robots, and people's existing understandings of technology to understand what robots might or could do. An imaginative account of robot geographies offers interdisciplinary value by positing new frameworks for how robots are understood relationally, and in terms of possibility, that can contribute to studies in social robotics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-109
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Collage
  • Emerging technologies
  • Imagination
  • Public space
  • Robot geographies

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