The Workshop

Workshop organized in conjunction with the RO-MAN 2017 conference, to be held in Lisbon, Portugal, August 28 – September 1, 2017

Problem Statement

The field of robotics has rapidly advanced over the last decades and shown great promises in different fields. After robots were introduced in industry decades ago, advancements in robot systems have enabled them to increasingly enter and affect our everyday lives. Nowadays we see robot systems being introduced as assistants, team-mates, care-takers, and companions, in diverse contexts such as education, health and eldercare, the home and in search and rescue. This development has started the discussion on the emotional, ethical and societal consequences of the increasing confrontations and interactions between humans and robots.

Studies in human-robot interaction have shown that, when robots enter different contexts of our everyday lives, they can influence and change that particular context beyond its intended use purpose alone. The term mutual shaping explains the detailed process of technological design suggesting that society and technology are not mutually exclusive to one another and, instead, influence and shape each other. Society changes as a direct result of the implementation of technology that has been created based on society’s wants and needs.

The mutual shaping of technology and society approach focuses on analyzing how social and cultural factors influence the way technologies are designed, used, and evaluated as well as how technologies affect our construction of social values and meanings.

The decisions made in the design, adoption, use, and evaluation process affect human’s attitudes towards, uses of, and even their conceptualizations of these (socially) interactive systems. Social norms, values and morals are both implicitly and explicitly intertwined with technologies, reinforcing or altering our beliefs and practices. Once a robot has entered a social environment, it will alter the distribution of responsibilities and roles within that environment, including how people act in that situation or use context. Accordingly, studies that show how use practices of robot systems and the social environment mutually shape each other, and what forms this mutual shaping process takes, is crucial for the future development of robots for broad societal use. This knowledge is required to inform the design and acceptance of new and existing robot systems.

Aim of the Workshop

The aim of this workshop is to inform the robotics community and its many stakeholders about lessons learned so far about the mutual shaping of robots and society. We will bring together bring together researchers and practitioners from various backgrounds to share their knowledge and experiences. We will focus on how the social factors can lead to use and non-use of robots, and how robot design factors affect the social contexts in which they are employed. Until now, there have been few scientific venues that support knowledge exchange on the topic of mutual shaping of robots and society that go beyond the functional perspective on potential effects of robots on society. We would like to use this workshop to create a roadmap to interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange that can identify lessons learned and guide further progress within the community by providing analysis of research goals.