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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access March 5, 2019

Studying robots outside the lab: HRI as ethnography

  • Lasse Blond EMAIL logo


As more and more robots enter our social world, there is a strong need for further field studies of humanrobot interaction. Based on a two-year ethnographic study of the implementation of a South Korean socially assistive robot in Danish elderly care, this paper argues that empirical and ethnographic studies will enhance the understanding of the adaptation of robots in real-life settings. Furthermore, the paper emphasizes how users and the context of use matters to this adaptation, as it is shown that roboticists are unable to control how their designs are implemented and how the sociality of social robots is inscribed by its users in practice. This paper can be seen as a contribution to long-term studies of HRI. It presents the challenges of robot adaptation in practice and discusses the limitations of the present conceptual understanding of human-robot relations. The ethnographic data presented herein encourage a move away from static and linear descriptions of the implementation process toward more contextual and relational accounts of HRI.


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Received: 2018-06-29
Accepted: 2019-01-14
Published Online: 2019-03-05

© 2019 Lasse Blond, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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