“Locating East West Robot Culture” presented by Ndalia­nis and Boyle


Session Title:

  • Performance (Panels & Roundtables)

Presentation Title:

  • Locating East West Robot Culture




  • The machine as a character has a long history dating from ancient times with the creation of automata in Ancient Egypt, Greece and China, and then more recently between the 14th and 18th century. However, the appearance of robots as entities acquired a more important role in the beginning of the 20th century. It is not until the work of Karel Capek when, in his 1921 play R.U.R., he introduced machines as human replacements for labour that we began to refer to these mechanic constructions as robots. Even though this definition survives until today, robotic representations and their function have been explored from diverse perspectives, ranging machinic constructions, to a means to exploring notions of identity, autonomy, psychology, sexuality, politics etc. However, such approaches bypass an alternate, hidden history of automata – one that understands the development of the robot within the context of a rich tapestry that explores parallels between past and present, East and the West. Through an analysis of the automaton tradition – its technology, its function, and the philosophical issues it inspired – it is possible to gain insight into how this practice inspired and consequently drove the    development of modern day cinema, theatrical performance, device interaction and broader mainstream entertainment innovations. In this panel we will consider the nature of Human Robot Interaction relations, suggesting some new ways of thinking about these issues that may be generally applicable to the history and development of the creation of contemporary new media art mediums.