Research Programs: Fellowships for Advanced Social Science Research on Japan

Period of Performance

5/1/2008 - 11/30/2008

Funding Totals

$24,000.00 (approved)
$24,000.00 (awarded)

Robotics, Technology, and the Japanese Family

FAIN: FO-50039-07

Jennifer Ellen Robertson
Regents of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1382)

The emerging field of humanoid robotics is nowhere more actively pursued than in Japan. Japan accounts for nearly 52% of the world’s share of operational robots and leads the postindustrial world in the development of humanoid robots designed specifically to enhance and augment human society. The five-year Humanoid Robotics Project was launched in 1998 with the mandate to develop a robot that could use human tools and work in human environments, including the domestic household. Innovations in robot technology are linked not only to new markets in information technology, but also to new conceptualizations about human life, the structure and formation of Japanese families and kinship systems, and the meaning of citizenship.

Associated Products

Robo sapiens japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family and the Japanese Nation (Book)
Title: Robo sapiens japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family and the Japanese Nation
Author: Jennifer Robertson
Abstract: Japan is arguably the first postindustrial society to embrace the prospect of human-robot coexistence. Over the past decade, Japanese humanoid robots designed for use in homes, hospitals, offices, and schools have become celebrated in mass and social media throughout the world. In Robo sapiens japanicus, Jennifer Robertson casts a critical eye on press releases and public relations videos that misrepresent robots as being as versatile and agile as their science fiction counterparts. An ethnography and sociocultural history of governmental and academic discourse of human-robot relations in Japan, this book explores how actual robots—humanoids, androids, and animaloids—are “imagineered” in ways that reinforce the conventional sex/gender system and political-economic status quo. In addition, Robertson interrogates the notion of human exceptionalism as she considers whether “civil rights” should be granted to robots. Similarly, she juxtaposes how robots and robotic exoskeletons reinforce a conception of the “normal” body with a deconstruction of the much-invoked Theory of the Uncanny Valley.
Year: 2018
Publisher: University of California Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780520283206
Copy sent to NEH?: No