Material relationships in action: the social psychology of social robots in dementia care

Primary Investigator:  Marcus Persson, PhD (Linköping University).

Collaborators: Clara Iversen, PhD (CESAR, Uppsala University), David Redmalm, PhD. (Mälardalen University) & Marie Flinkfeldt, PhD (CESAR, Uppsala university).

Funder: Swedish Research Council (VR).

Duration: 2020–2022.

Project Description: Social robots are discussed as a solution to new societal challenges connected to the ageing population and increasingly demanding care apparatus. Research on social robots in care has been criticized for being either technophobic or technophilic: overly optimistic concerning the possibility of new technology, or pessimistic about the risk that robotization of care will entail a dehumanization of patients. In contrast, the proposed project will regard the normative aspects of care robotics as an empirical question. By combining the meaning-focused social psychology of symbolic interactionism with action-focused conversation analysis, and the posthumanist notion of social agency, the proposed project will offer a comprehensive empirically grounded conception of material agency in social relationships. Based on ethnography, document analysis, and multimodal conversation analysis, the project will examine the social relationships between caregivers, patients, and social robots in dementia care, and the practices by which robots and people become social actors. We will examine dilemmas that people may face in relation to social robots, such as the tension between humanist values and organizational functionality. The project will contribute empirically to the field of social robots in healthcare and social care. It will also make a theoretical contribution to the interdisciplinary field of social relationships with material things.

Last modified: 2022-01-25