Cathrine Hasse

How robots challenge institutional practices

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In a globalized world, tools are not what they used to be. Artefacts are material and ideal, but they are often used by people other than those who made them, creating a culture-culture split. The person who creates an artefact perceives it in one way; whereas the people who use it learn how to perceive it in relation their own activity settings and local institutional practices. In this article, I draw on a recent study of the introduction of a robot helper into the activity setting of a Danish rehabilitation centre to examine this split and to identify the processes by which material artefacts may or may not become embedded within cultures. The study traced how the staff at the centre made efforts to find uses for the robot, but ultimately recognised that they needed to reject it, as the demands made by the technology prevented their pursuing what they saw as the primary purposes of the centre. The analyses of the processes in play during attempts at accommodating and then rejecting the robot were informed by Hedegaard's seminal framing of the relationships between activity settings with their histories and motives and the institutional practices within which they are located. The study ultimately concluded that overarching motives of the everyday work of the staff determined whether they included the material artefact, the robot, in their activities as meaningful, or excluded it as meaningless.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLearning, Culture and Social Interaction
StatePublished - 19 Apr 2018

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