Constructing Soft Robot Aesthetics - Art, Sensation, and Materiality in Practice

Jonas Jørgensen

Publikation: Bog / Antologi / Rapport / Ph.D.-afhandlingPh.d.-afhandling


Within the past decade, robots have spread throughout society and entered the everyday lives of an
increasing amount of people. Concurrently with this development, a novel class of robots have seen
the light of day. Soft robotics designates a new approach to designing robots, anchored in the simple
idea of using pliable and elastic materials such as silicone rubbers rather than metal or plastic.
This thesis presents a study of soft robots across art and science. It explores alternative
versions of what soft robotics might be or become if approached from the point of view of art and
aesthetics. The overarching problem that the thesis addresses is how artistic and aesthetic practices
might augment soft robotics and contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the potentials and
consequences of rendering a robot soft. The thesis combines analytical and practice-based research
methods to address this problem, drawing on the fields and disciplines of artistic research, art
history, human-robot interaction, and soft robotics.
The thesis consists of seven research publications bound together by an introduction.
The research presented examines what qualities and capacities of soft robots that emerge in
contemporary projects within fields of aesthetic practice that incorporate soft robotics technology. It
contributes to rethinking and contextualizing soft robot aesthetics in relation to historical artworks
and art practices and to constructing an aesthetic genealogy of soft robotic art that can help to
elucidate its aesthetics.
By means of an empirical human-robot interaction experiment the thesis seeks to nuance
statements and claims made about human perceptions of soft robots within technical literature and
to gain insights into the spontaneous interaction behaviors elicited by soft robots. Through artistic
practice the thesis interrogates how soft robotics technology can come to function as an artistic
medium. Furthermore, it shows how artistic and aesthetic practices can be productive of other types
of knowledges about soft robots and as a byproduct generate outcomes that are of use to robotics
research more broadly.
A central insight that emerges from the thesis’ transdisciplinary engagements with soft
robotics is that in practice the softness of a soft robot can come to matter in several ways. Different
versions of softness in a robot are actualized within different practices with different consequences.
Accordingly, the thesis argues that in order to fully unfold the technology´s potential a
transdisciplinary perspective on softness is needed.
ForlagIT-Universitetet i København
Antal sider219
ISBN (Trykt)978-87-7949-027-7
StatusUdgivet - 2019


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