Sexual Robots: The Social-Relational Approach and the Concept of Subjective Reference

Lecture Notes in Computer Science (2020)
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In this paper we propose the notion of “subjective reference” as a conceptual tool that explains how and why human-robot sexual interactions could reframe users approach to human-human sexual interactions. First, we introduce the current debate about Sexual Robotics, situated in the wider discussion about Social Robots, stating the urgency of a regulative framework. We underline the importance of a social-relational approach, mostly concerned about Social Robots impact in human social structures. Then, we point out the absence of a precise framework conceptualizing why Social Robots, and Sexual Robots in particular, may modify users’ sociality and relationality. Within a psychological framework, we propose to consider Sexual Robots as “subjective references”, namely objects symbolically referring to human subjects: we claim that, for the user experience, every action performed upon a Sexual Robot is symbolically directed toward a human subject, including degrading and violent practices. This shifting mechanism may transfer the user relational setting from human-robot interactions to human-human interactions.

Author's Profile

Piercosma Bisconti
Scuola Superiore di Studi Universitari e di Perfezionamento Sant'Anna


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