chapter  5
Voices in the field: the pragmatic engineer, technocentric visionary and inquisitive scientist
Pages 24

Social robotics is a subset of the human-robot interaction (HRI) field in engineering, and at the same time goes beyond pragmatics of engineering. Since about 2005, the long-term relationship has become a prominent subject matter in this field. At its most empiricist, this relational turn merely augments the industry’s concerns with user acceptance of its products. It recognizes the need for researchers to move beyond lab experiments and develop survey and ethnographic methods for identifying similarities and differences in how humans interact with robots, computers, and other humans. More ambitiously, it endeavours to contribute to basic understanding of social cognition, thereby redefining the space of scientific problems associated with empirical HRI research. At its boldest, the field is redefining itself in a space of ethical questions concerning the relationship between the technology and society. Social issues are increasingly recognized as among the issues that define the HRI field, extending it beyond engineering. As seen in Chapter 4, contributors differ in terms of society-versus technology-centred priorities. The relational turn is thus characterized by a multiplicity of voices-where (following Bakhtin) ‘voice’ is the manner in which an utterance cognizes, contemplates, speaks and expounds something. The patterns of agreements and disagreements give the discourse its distinctive texture.