Wednesday, December 20, 2006

disturbed; shaken not stirred

Sherry Turkle has expressed concern, a rest home she had left Hasbro's 'my real baby' dolls thought they were so useful they bought 25 more.
She cites how a depressed elderly woman projected her own depression on to one of these robot toys saying that it was also sad.
In a Wired article on the making of these interactive toys irobot CEO Colin Angle said "You need to create a life-form that understands that it's being played with... A lot of interactive toys simply drive the conversation. You push a button, it talks. My Real Baby had to be a life-form, not a forced march."

I see a forced march.
I am relieved that Turkle is disturbed. In who am we, she wrote of whether our use of IT extends or constrains us.
I am disturbed, under what conditions can or should a human touch be replaced with a robotics? The move from toy to human substitute begins insidiously.
ITs not just a doll, ITs not just a toy. This a political animal.
This is not ai, this is real life, a real world absence of care; a lack of human resourcing masked as care.
IT is seductive, not only because it is beautiful, but because it is cheap (when compared with staff, time, love, affection).
To quote a famous self confessed cyborg, Donna Haraway, - and to bring forward a critical social thread into the discussion- it could be otherwise. An aggragation of actors is required for care to be replaced by toys, this could be otherwise. The world's 'most therapeutic robot' should be contested, surely it depends on how IT is used as to whether there is therapeutic value or harm?
Techtoys blogsite links to paro seal with a beautiful movie clip of this 'toy' set to the music of Zeeche. "If you love her...mamma said... don't do it. ' or at least, do IT alongside care not as a substitute.

Paro fur seal


  1. just checking if comments works coz nobody ever writes to me...
    please its lonely in here

  2. Anonymous11:07 PM

    Comments work ... apologies I have been distracted by the struggle to reconnect with real life after being tilted out of any disequilibrium I might pretend to by emerging from the delicious uncertainty and universal surveillance of surfaces that is Beijing to the stampede of Christmas in New Zealand - "Thank God for the Warehouse"

    Love, just love the "quiver" have framed my last milestone response around it and will share the official response when it arrives -

    "IT is seductive, not only because it is beautiful, but because it is cheap (when compared with staff, time, love, affection)." same message works in IT in education - Despite the carefully framed e learning action plans - CHEAP keeps rearing up in the discourse.

    Your post makes me realise that I want to take you to visit the dementia centre where grandpa lives. A place where a therapeutic robot would be treated with incomprehension because the centre is so rich in "staff, time, love and affection". I am certain that you'd find much of interest to your research in talking with the staff about how they value the residents, and whether ICT might change anything.

  3. Thanks Arti, I am pleased to hear your experience of a unit where love and affection and valuing predominates. My mum lives 23 minutes away geographically but in her mind the separations are more profound. She has independence, but with considerable forgetfulness creating a loneliness not lifted by visits as the visits are not recalled. A disabling illness that robs her of her sense of love and belonging. Best wishes.

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  5. I know i am visible, and exist, when spammers leave comments, now i just have to learn what to do to delete and prevent gratuitous advertising pests.
    Might have to resort to the pesky use of numbers that (currently) confound non human agents from writing on my blogsite!

  6. The non human agents that write here are at least mementarily discouraged forthwith. I didnt want my practice altered- Alan levine suggets the perky irritants are geared to search for multiple links in any one posting- so apparently limiting these discourages them. But not wanting to take that measure, i take another not wanted option, i am none the less influenced by them: i have altered the means of leaving messages; a numeric code is activated. but also i find myself talking back to the slime...posting on postings that wont be 'read' by those that posted.

  7. Anonymous6:22 PM

    What a sad aspect of internet technology, that comments are open to putrescent spamming. Sad because it attaches to the site an aspect of life that does not seem to belong.
    It seems much of the technology introduced in the rest homes to replace human touch/ intereaction is a sad indication of the level of regard society in general has for elderly people. Whilst another view might be that with limited resources IT is really the most practical answer, that approach does not deal with the question of why there are so few resources available to elderly. I doubt that these observations are absent amongst the elderly.

  8. Anonymous9:38 AM

    I am interested that the nursing facility which purchased robotics reacted to outcome (being soothed) rather than investigating the context which created the need for soothing. Too often it seems limited resources propel quick fix solutions.

    While your comments suggest IT in education is also a response to limited resources, your description of the use of media to introduce students to working with a different and somewhat frightening population indicates a careful and thoughtful response to learning needs. Congratulations.

    Now lets transfer that approach to the elderly community (to some, also a different and somewhat frightening population).

    It might be helpful to consider what a robotic is? For example is a lifting machine also a robotic? I confess I don't have a range of definitions to hand but I wonder if the more mechanised that care becomes - the more older people require soothing. Perhaps the dolls are iatragenic?

    About blogging and online learning.
    I find myself becoming self conscious when responding to blogs (a new activity for me). I feel stilted. I struggle with what to say and yet I want to say something. Once I hit the submit button - its gone - and available to the scrutiny of others.

    For students, there is no hiding in an online course. Warts and all are available to those who have access to the course. I think your research is going to be timely and useful. Enough for now

    Great blog

  9. Thanks Barb, the open and transparent nature could also be a Foucaudian sense of surveillance...and one I have also considered in the 'supportive use ' of text: anywhere anytime might be a tad invasive, and worth investigating further ...