BIGSSS-departs Ph.D. Fellow, Cohort 2017
Engineering elder care: An analysis of conceptual premises and biases of social robots in elder care
The aim of this PhD dissertation is to understand the conceptual premises and biases of social robots in elder care. First, the conceptual premises are discussed by empirically analyzing the content and construction of social robots in elder care. This informed the creation of a conceptual framework, typology, and definition of social robots in elder care. Second, biases in the field of Human-Robot Interaction in elder care are discussed from a critical perspective. It is relevant to study these issues, since the content and the construction of technologies in this new field are not free of value. The content of 96 academic publications was analyzed qualitatively, using grounded theory in one study, and thematic analysis in two other studies. Results show that social robots in elder care are conceptualized in terms of agents/tools and in care/social settings. Furthermore, ageist and neoliberal bias are embedded in the construction of such technologies. This thesis concludes that 1) social robots in elder care ought to be seen as merely an additional aid to human caregiving, and 2) flexible essentialism, a theory that is developed in this thesis to discuss subject-object relations, reconciles two seemingly opposing camps in the academic literature on the study of sociotechnical agency.
Technische Universität Berlin