Seminar 7

23 May, 14:00 – 25 May, 16:00

‘In Dialogue with Robotics’ is coming to an end after an academic year of presentations, discussions, and an intense research trip to the greater Boston area, USA. Over the span of this course participants have been investigating varying entry points into this rich field of research augmented by our engagement with the ideas of invited theorists, philosophers, roboticists, artists and curators. To mark the wrapping up of this project we are launching an exhibition titled ‘Degrees of Freedom: Human, Robot and the Medium of Automation’ at the Design Huis (rooms 2 and 3) in Eindhoven. The exhibition opens 4.30 pm on 25 May, on May 23 and 24 we will be an installation period as well as a one of continuing discussion.


Thursday 25 May, 16:30


With: Agata Cieślak, Rabea Ridlhammer,  Katja den Dulk, Elvis Krstulovic, Iva Kovač, Malcolm Kratz, Mira Adoumier, Olga Micińska, Sonia Kazovsky with Giulia Crispiani , Sunghoon Kim, Ulufer Çelik. 

Thursday 25 May - Sunday 28 May 2017

'Degrees of Freedom' is an exhibition in which ideas, forms and experiments related to the Dutch Art Institute’s Roaming Academy class 'In Dialogue with Robotics' are presented to the public. Many of the contributions to 'Degrees of Freedom' are not so much finalized artworks but rather pilots for projects that are at different stages of development. The title refers to the technical term used to describe the extent of a robot’s freedom of motion. This term explaining a robot’s physical characteristics and ability to move converges with wider questions and popular concerns about more ‘disembodied’ computational technologies and artificial intelligence in relation to social and political agency, labour, and financialisation. How can art-oriented research inhabit these interconnected fields of inquiry? In what way can it contribute to this discussion? These are the most general questions that this class has tried to engage with and what this exhibition attempts to address through its array of contributions. The project features a number of performances programmed to coincide with the opening, videos, sculptural work and other forms of practice. The exhibition is open until Sunday 28 May, 5 pm.

Seminar 6: Friday April 21 , 2017

2 – 3.30 pm:

General meeting in preparation for final projects for the group exhibition "Degrees of Freedom: Human, Robot and the Medium of Automation", updates on budget and plans etc.

4 – 7 pm:

Presentation by Victoria Ivanova and follow up group discussion

The roles that finance and technology play in governance make the call for progressive non-liberal conceptions of freedom both starkly evident and most pressing. This poses a major challenge for the regime of contemporary art, which despite its outwardly progressive guise, continues to rely on ontological presumptions and operative protocols that at once situate the emancipatory potential of art in opposition to technology and 'the market', while simultaneously explicitly or implicitly adhering to and/or relying on a liberal cosmopolitan horizon. I will draw on my work in human rights and contemporary art as regimes of mediation that have historically functioned as image-makers for different strands of the global liberal project, and discuss some examples from my curatorial practice where I am attempting to recode the role of the 'instrument' in/through art.

8 – 10 pm (After Dinner Continuation):

Participants in the ‘In Dialogue with Robotics’ program present their concepts for their projects to be featured in the group exhibition "Degrees of Freedom: Human, Robot and the Medium of Automation". Victoria Ivanova and Bassam will act as respondents.

Saturday April 22, 10 am – 1 pm:

Participants in the ‘In Dialogue with Robotics’ program present their concepts for their projects to be featured in the group exhibition "Degrees of Freedom: Human, Robot and the Medium of Automation". Victoria Ivanova and Bassam will act as respondents.

Roaming Academy, 15-26 March, 2017

Roaming Academy, 15-26 March, 2017
Great Boston Area Research Trip Overview

Roaming Academy ‘In Dialogue with Robotics’ is set around an exploration of computational technologies, AI, and robotics and the question of how artistic research may inhabit such research fields to its advantage. To this end the academy travelled to the greater Boston area to latch on to the vast and diverse research produced by its institutions, academics, and researchers. The program was tailored for acquiring a better and more informed grip on how to approach the concerns and debates around computational-AI centred discourses. In the expanded field of art many debates around AI and robotics come hand in hand with critiques of advanced capitalism and financialization but are prone to somewhat inflating the power of AI and lead to either dystopian visions of the future or an over-affirming of the liberating potential of AI and robotics. This trip is a roaming through how such technology is produced normatively in an attempt to gain a realistic picture of this interconnected field, mapping out its interconnections with daily life and the question of ‘human’. Additionally, it invites artists and theorists who have been engaged with this research area to work with DAI students on developing their discourses and positions on AI and technology. What exactly is involved in programming a robot? What kind of social goals do roboticists plan for? Answers to such questions give us a more solid viewpoint from which we can approach our more ‘artistically’ oriented research. In this regard our research trip to the Greater Boston area featured institutional visits, discussions, workshops, face to face meetings with students and lectures with the view to acquiring key entry points and grounds for knowledge and research that would benefit the group in working towards a final project. The final projects will feature in the group exhibition "Degrees of Freedom: Human, Robot and the Medium of Automation" set to be part of the “Becoming More” Van Abbe caucus in May, 2017.

The main institutions DAI visited during this trip were: Northeastern University (College of Computer Science and Information - Relational Agents Group), Emerson College, Harvard University, Tufts University (Department of Computer Science - the Human-Robot Interaction Laboratory), Carpenter Center for The Visual Arts, MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology, MIT Museum, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Interactive Robotics Group at MIT, Personal Robots Group at MIT, Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA).

The group attended workshops and talks by: Nat Crosby (tour of Boston), Benjamin Tiven, Keith Tilford, Bernadette Wegenstein (John Hopkins), Hicham Awad (Hardvard), Robert Chodat (Boston University), Claudia Castañeda (Emerson), Timothy Bickmore and the Relational Agents Group (Northeastern), Stacy Marsella (Northeastern), Gediminas Urbonas and ACT MIT student presentations, Matthias Scheutz (Tufts), Pedro Reynolds-Cuéllar (MIT), and Vaibhav Unhelkar (MIT).


Seminar 4: Friday February 10th, 2017

This programme will take the form of two workshops led by Niklas Toivakainen, workshop descriptions are as follows.

Workshop One, Friday 10 February 2 – 6.30 pm and 7.30 – 9.30 pm:

Leading researchers and engineers within the field of robotics usually want to stress that by creating and developing robots, and especially so called sociable robots, they hope to increase our knowledge of what it is to be human. This is obviously, in a sense, correct, since the task of these researchers and engineers is exactly to develop machines that display/simulate a variety of social capacities and characteristics. Yet, what is seldom acknowledged is that the project is as such expressive of a technological understanding/aspiration, shaping and informing the conceptual imagination and landscape — the lenses through which phenomena is ‘understood’ — of ‘human’, ‘knowledge’, ‘social’ etc. Alongside the techno-scientific enterprise of deepening and increasing our knowledge of how things work, the development and implementations of new technologies is also fuelled by socio-economic interests, demands etc. In the first part of the workshop we will explore my claim that the techno-scientific search for ‘the human’ and the civilisational ‘progress’ that seems to necessitate technological development are two aspects of an underlying utopian/dystopian narrative. With the help of a historical overview, I will try to show how the techno-scientific ideology of today is genealogically linked to the culture of asceticism; a secular transmutation of the ancient and medieval desire to transcend life. In the second part of the workshop I will try to show how this genealogical link is visible in the contemporary discourse and conceptualisation around social robotics and AI technologies. By critically reflecting on the difference between techno-scientific knowledge and (moral) understanding, between the concept of life and that of works or machines, and by analysing video material and interviews/speeches on robotics, we will look into how the robotics community generally (mis)understands notions such as ‘autonomous-’ and ‘developmental robotics’, notions central to the social robotics discourse.

Workshop Two, Saturday 11 February 10 – 1 pm:

The previous day’s workshop implicitly suggested that much of social robotics both builds on as well as extends prevalent social pathologies. This second workshop will then focus on some aspects of what makes social robotics possible (both ontologically as well as socio-politically), attractive, exiting, and also disturbing, uncanny. How life-like/human-like do we want to make our robots (since this is, in the end, up to ‘us’)? That is to say, what is the moral-existential/psychological, as well as socio-economical, dynamics that shape our relationship to this question? If our desire with regards to robotics is not pervasively underpinned by a demand for control and power — a fear of the responsive openness inherent in interpersonal life — why would we be so enthusiastic about it/them? Aided by video- and film clips, we will reflect on the interconnection between the compensatory character of social robotics, alienation, formal/social identities and the wishful fantasies invested in them and social robotics. 

Note: please arrive a little earlier than 10 since it takes time to get started

Seminar 3: Friday January 13th, 2017

Do we need robots to take care of people? Robots and disability

This month ‘In Dialogue with Robotics’ will be lead by Antonio Carnevale who has outlined below the topics for two workshops he will conduct on the 13th and 14th.
The aim of the workshop is to discuss the role that emerging robotic technologies could play in the future in daily life of disabled people. When I talk about disability, I mean any temporary or permanent limitation due to a chronic disease and deficit, as well as, socially disadvantaged conditions, which imply functional and emotional restrictions experienced at any age. All these limitations can be characterized by a specific mental and physical impairment or, more often, by a cluster of medical impairments and social barriers. To this end, the academic literature has generally differentiated between two disability models: ‘medical’ versus ‘social’. The main attempt of my presentation consists into showing how the development of robotic technologies – particularly in assistive and healthcare fields – could allow us to go beyond this outdated dichotomy, contributing to create new philosophical premises to rethink the universality of the human condition, that is, the sense of what we intend for ‘good human life’.  I have already argued about disability and robotics in the following article, published in Disability Studies Quarterly: 

Seminar 2, continuation: Saturday January 14th, 2017

(10:00-13:00 hrs)

Ontology, human condition and techno-vulnerability

The second workshop constitutes a challenge also for me because it has to do with a work-in-progress concept that I am trying to define in a current study, the “techno-vulnerability”. Healthcare robots can help us to rewrite the notion of universality. Augmented reality technologies enhance users’ perception of the world by blending interactive virtual objects with the visual representation of actual objects in real time. The technology of 3D printing could give to humans the possibility to make almost anything. All these cases constrain us to take into account two intertwined aspects.
Firstly, humans are naturally and socially vulnerable to the use of technologies. We are frail creatures from birth. For this reason, we build societies and create technologies to overcome this difficulties of life, but in so doing we become socially vulnerable because daily life requires to be increasingly supported by artificial implementations. This explains why “vulnerability” – namely, the possibility of being hurt or violated – is one of the fundamental aspects of the human condition that humans have always tried to tackle or limit through technology. However, at the same time as technology counterbalances or eliminates one form of vulnerability, it indirectly creates new and more sophisticated forms of it.
Secondly, the gradual colonization of the reality operated by technologies involves necessary to redefine the concept of vulnerability, starting from a different ontological definition of the human condition in the world. It is no longer possible to define the vulnerability as violation or limitation of a human nature. We need to shift the focus from “human nature” to “human being”. Namely, the technology mediates today so much the expression of human life that the definition of vulnerability should have less to do with the question of what the human being is, but much more with the question of what the human being can and wants to be. The metaphysical question on human nature could thus be narrowed down to the weighing of alternative options, entailing more limited policy decisions on which kind of vulnerability is – more or less – desirable.
As Consortium of the European project RoboLaw, we have trying to regulate the future use of some robotic devices following a similar idea of vulnerability. To see more:

Seminar 2: Friday December 9th and 10th, 2016

This In Dialogue with Robotics session will take the form of two workshops each led by a guest lecturer from a different theoretical background. The first workshop on 9 December (2 – 7 pm) will be led by Diann Bauer whom we will engage with on questions concerning the relationship between technology, feminism, and time. The second workshop by Raya Jones on 10 December (10 – 1 pm) will be a concise exposition of her book Personhood and Social Robotics which presents her research on the relationship between psychology and robotics. Dr. Jones will also be conducting face to face meetings with a number of DAI students after lunch on the 10th.


About Diann Bauer’s Workshop

In this workshop I will use Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienationas my point of departure. It is a text written collaboratively by Laboria Cuboniks in 2015. I will discuss what is meant by alienation and I will use this form of alienation as a way to start thinking about time, what time is and how it functions both for the human but also some of the ways it functions outside of our perception yet still has real effects on ways that we live. We will look at some examples via texts and film clips. My claim is that the primacy of human phenomenological experience of time is no longer sufficient for how we organize, inflect and orient the systems we have created because these systems function on a scales that are beyond our experiential capacity while at the same time accepting that the appearance of temporal linearity is a dominant feature of how we navigate daily life. In this workshop, I will expand on these ideas and work together to explore their inconsistencies.


Diann Bauer is an artist and writer based in London. Her work spans a range of disciplines and has been screened and exhibited internationally. She is involved in several collaborative projects most notably Laboria Cuboniks, a working group redefining a feminism adequate to a global 21st century with whom she wrote and published Xenofeminism, A Politics for Alienation in 2015. And the Office for Applied Complexity (OfAC) a platform for research and development that traverses conceptual terrains with an aim to construct new models for work between art, science, technology, and power. OfAC is an expansion of Fixing the Future of which she was also a member.

Links: , , 


About Raya Jones’ Workshop
The workshop draws on Personhood and Social Robotics. I shall introduce my approach to analysing representations of robots, the focus and disciplinary context of the study culminating in the book, and the concept of robot as a semiotic object. We shall then explore definitions of social robots, the repositioning the user in human-robot interaction research, the technological imagination (as distinguished from sociological, psychological and artistic imaginations), commercially available companion robots for the elderly and young children, and futuristic intimacies with robots. Time permitting; I may round up with the topics of the uncanny valley and/or utopianism in the discourse of social robotics.
Dr Raya Jones is a Reader in the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University. Her primary interests are psychological theories of the self, identity and personhood. In that context, she currently examines the discourse of social robotics and has located her latest book is Personhood and Social Robotics (Routledge, 2016). Previous work has centred on Jungian, narrative and dialogical perspectives; and earlier work concerned child mental health in school settings. Other books include Jung, Psychology, Postmodernity (Routledge, 2007), The Child-School Interface (Cassell, 1995) and several edited volumes.

Seminar 1: Friday October 21st, 2016

Robolaw, Robocop, and Human-Robot Interaction 

In 2014 and after a sustained period of dialogue the European Commission was delivered a set of regulatory suggestions for robotics. This is the RoboLaw project which has the stated objective of investigating ‘the ways in which emerging technologies in the field of (bio-) robotics (e.g. bionics, neural interfaces and nanotechnologies) have a bearing on the content, meaning and setting of the law.’ Taking up the field of ethics this session will dig into how ethical questions are part and parcel of the history of robotics since Asimov’s three laws of robotics and what constitutes the idea of a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ robot. How do these ethics connect with the imagination of a future in popular cinema? A film that has such philosophical questions concerning bionics and the human neural and digital interface connection interwoven into its dialogue and even into the names of its characters is the 2014 version of Robocop which will be used as entry point into these questions that are grounded in science but cannot do without philosophical investigation.

Seminar 1, continuation: Saturday October 22nd, 2016

Interactional Reasoning and Social Power

This session will be lead by James Trafford

Social robotics poses multiple questions for philosophy, not least of which is the suggestion that there might be something intrinsically social about the ways in which we reason. I take this as my starting point here, developing an intersubjective, interactional, approach to reasoning. I will distinguish this approach from standard approaches to reason and reasoning, as well as the dialogical approaches of Robert Brandom and Jürgen Habermas. One of the central problems facing such an approach is how to deal with the social landscape of power. I will finish by discussing how we might understand the implication of interactional reasoning in structural processes of power, and, how this impacts upon the relationship between reasoning and the formation of political will. 


James Trafford is currently Senior Lecturer in Critical Approaches to Art & Design at the University for the Creative Arts, Epsom UK. He has been published in numerous journals, gallery catalogues and design-books, including co-editing the collection of essays "Speculative Aesthetics" (Urbanomic, 2015), and the forthcoming "Meaning in Dialogue" (Springer Press, 2017). He has also exhibited artwork at Tate Britain and Xero, Kline, and Coma, and is currently writing a monograph provisionally entitled "Reason and Power".