Robots and roomba riders: non-human performers in theories of social practice

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Dynamic non-humans such as service robots are intended to ‘take over’ practices previously performed by humans. This chapter considers this anticipated role within theories of social practice. It does this by exploring three possible roles for robotic vacuum cleaners or ‘robovacs’ within social practices: first, as a material element (device) of vacuuming practices performed by humans; second, as (human-perceived) non-human performers of vacuuming; and third, as materials that are enrolled in the practice of ‘Roomba riding’, whereby other non-humans (domesticated animals) ride robovacs for entertainment. The chapter calls for a relational and provisional understanding of non-humans in theories of social practice, drawing attention to the different dynamics each perspective prioritises. It concludes by considering the value of these different conceptual roles for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Practices and Dynamic Non-Humans
Subtitle of host publicationNature, Materials and Technologies
EditorsCecily Maller, Yolande Strengers
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783319921891
ISBN (Print)9783319921884
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Cite this

Strengers, Y. (2019). Robots and roomba riders: non-human performers in theories of social practice. In C. Maller, & Y. Strengers (Eds.), Social Practices and Dynamic Non-Humans: Nature, Materials and Technologies (pp. 215-234). Palgrave Macmillan.