Multi-Entity Relations

This project focuses on studying the granular everyday interactions among multi-species entities — human, nonhuman, and more than human, to explore how relations are negotiated and maintained. Our interest is to extend the long legacy of research focused on human-to-human interactions mediated by digital technologies, but also explore the communicative functions and patterns in cross-entity interactions, such as the algorithm-to-algorithm interaction, human-device-platform interaction, or human-robot interactions.

2022: Youth relations with algorithms

At the micro level of interactions, routine engagements with digital technologies are deeply influential in how individuals construct a sense of identity, or Selfhood, and impacts the shape and conduct of various relationships. This set of studies takes a scholarly activist approach to the topic to build young persons’ critical comprehension of these dynamics. By experimenting with a range of workshop-led as well as self-guided critical pedagogy techniques, we are building models for how critical digital and data literacy can be facilitated. This is also positioned as a form of citizen social science, whereby community members are trained to be digital ethnographers of their own lived experiences.

in 2022, Riccardo Pronzato (IULM University Milan) joined Annette Markham at DERC for three months to conduct experimental workshops and analyze data from earlier pedagogical experiments conducted by Pronzato in Italy in 2019-2020 and Markham in Denmark in 2018-2019.

2023: Autonomous robots in public space

In everyday life, autonomous nonhuman entities like agile robots are becoming more and more common. There are very few controls or guidelines about how these entities are designed or how they function and what “autonomous” means or should be limited to, in practice.

This study deploys Boston Dynamic’s ‘Spot’ robot in Melbourne’s Federation Square to observe reactions of people. Includes observations, onsite snippet interviews, and longer interviews and ethnographic fieldwork by Kelly Chan and Annette Markham (DERC), Kristen Moeller-saxone and Brad Crummond (RMIT’s Health Transformation Lab), and Edoardo Lomi (Copenhagen Business School).

This study provides one of very few large-scale observations of robot/human interaction “in the wild.”  It gathers detailed observational detail about the initial robot human encounter and the immediate reactions of humans. It augments the more common stye of closed or controlled experimental lab studies of human/robot interactions, contributing sociological knowledge and critical implications for a near future with publicly roaming robots and the relations that emerge from the co-mingling of robots and other entities over time.