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Human-Machine Communication

Rethinking Communication, Technology, and Ourselves


Edited By Andrea L. Guzman

From virtual assistants to social robots, people are increasingly interacting with intelligent and highly communicative technologies throughout their daily lives. This shift from communicating with people to communicating with people and machines challenges how scholars have theorized and studied communication. Human-Machine Communication: Rethinking Communication, Technology, and Ourselves addresses this transition in how people communicate and who, or what, they communicate with and the implications of this evolution for communication research. Geared toward scholars interested in people’s interactions with technology, this book serves as an introduction to human-machine communication (HMC) as a specific area of study within communication (encompassing human-computer interaction, human-robot interaction, and human-agent interaction) and to the research possibilities of HMC. This collection includes papers presented as part of a scholarly conference on HMC, along with invited works from noted researchers. Topics include defining HMC, theoretical approaches to HMC, applications of HMC, and the larger implications of HMC for self and society. The research presented here focuses on people’s interactions with multiple technologies (artificial intelligence, algorithms, and robots) used within different contexts (home, workplace, education, journalism, and healthcare) from a variety of epistemological and methodological approaches (empirical, rhetorical, and critical/cultural). Overall, Human-Machine Communication provides readers with an understanding of HMC in a way that supports and promotes further scholarly inquiry in a growing area of communication research.

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7. Communicating With Robots: ANTalyzing the Interaction Between Healthcare Robots and Humans With Regards to Privacy (Christoph Lutz / Aurelia Tamò)


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7. Communicating With Robots: ANTalyzing the Interaction Between Healthcare Robots and Humans With Regards to Privacy


In the coming years, we are expected to see a massive diffusion and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots (Gupta, 2015; van den Berg, 2016). In fact, robots are already heavily used in industrial settings and increasingly so for service tasks (Garmann-Johnsen, Mettler, & Sprenger, 2014; Lin, 2012). Gradually, they will be moving into our homes and institutions. The adoption of robots as new household members at home as well as the delegation of specific tasks to robots in nursing homes and in hospitals will importantly shape our attitudes towards our mechanical friends.

We address the topic of healthcare robots and privacy. Our choice of healthcare robots over other robots comes from the fact that they often deal with sensitive information and with vulnerable population groups (i.e., the elderly and/or ill individuals, see van Wynsberghe, 2013). This user segment might not always have the knowledge to give informed consent about data collection when interacting with robots. Moreover, it may lack the awareness to fully grasp the technological limits of the robots, leading to situations of potential dependency.

In this chapter, we will apply actor-network theory (ANT) to shed light on the privacy implications of healthcare robots. ANT strives to be a descriptive, constructivist approach that takes into account the agency of objects, concepts...

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