Social Anthropology - Robots, AI & Society

jeudi 21 avril 2022

Colloque "Science et spiritualité, entre dialogue et confrontation"

14 mai, 14:00 – 18:30
Patronage laïque Jules Vallès 
72 Av. Félix Faure, 75015 Paris, France

Près de quatre siècles après la condamnation de Galilée, le débat public sur le thème de la science et de la religion semble toujours polarisé par deux extrêmes. D’un côté, le délire créationniste, qui entend  nier certains acquis incontournables de la science, au nom d’une lecture fondamentaliste. De l’autre, le retentissement médiatique d’ouvrages de certains scientifiques qui entendent  prouver la non-existence de Dieu à l’aide d’arguments  scientifiques. Pourtant, ces positions sont assez marginales dans les deux  camps. Le piège de ces approches reste la confusion entre la  démarche scientifique d’une part, et la démarche religieuse d’autre part. Si l’on admet cette distinction, peut-on affirmer pour autant qu’il n’existe pas de dialogue possible entre science et religion? Et de manière plus large, entre une vision scientifique et une  conception spirituelle de l’homme et du monde ?


14h-16h - Croire et connaître 

Science et religion dans la philosophie d’Auguste Comte, 
par Annie Petit,  professeure émérite de philosophie – Université Paul-Valéry de Montpellier.

Albert Einstein : religion cosmique et science moderne, 
par Lydia Jaeger,  physicienne et théologienne, professeure et directrice des études à l’Institut  Biblique de Nogent, associée de recherche au St Edmund’s College, Université  de Cambridge.

Max Weber : penser le désenchantement du monde et une sociologie des religions, 
par  Laurent Fleury, professeur de sociologie, directeur des Masters « Politiques  culturelles » et « Sciences sociales » – Université Paris VII - Diderot.

16h30-18h30 - Science et spiritualité : une dualité universelle ?

La science en pays d’Islam, 
par Ahmed Djebbar, professeur émérite de  l’Université Lille 1 et chercheur en histoire des sciences. 

Place de la science dans la spiritualité chinoise, 
par Eulalie Steens, sinologue. 

Religion et intelligence artificielle, 
par Joffrey Becker, anthropologue affilié au  Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale.

mardi 12 avril 2022

c:o/re Workshop: Interdisciplinary Research in Robotics and AI

Disabled Chair, 2014 - 2019, prototype #3, Samuel Bianchini with the collaboration of Didier Bouchon
"Invisible Man" Exhibition, curating by Murray Horne, Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburgh, April 2019. Photo: © Samuel Bianchini - ADAGP
An artwork developed and prototyped as part of the research project “Behavioral Objects” of the Reflective Interaction Group of EnsadLab 
(laboratory of The École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs - PSL University).

 Joffrey Becker and Käte Hamburger Kolleg Aachen: Cultures of Research (c:o/re) 
RWTH Aachen University

c:o/re Workshop: Interdisciplinary Research in Robotics and AI
One-day workshop April 20 2022

To take part online, please register with

This workshop addresses interaction design by focusing on the notion of Behavioral Objects. Based on robotics and artificial intelligence, these non-anthropomorphic, non-zoomorphic objects are endowed with capacities for expressive movement, action and reactions and are also able to elicit observers’ behavioral interpretations (intentional and emotional attributions). They are therefore of interest to many fields of research like social sciences, humanities, robotics, computer sciences, art and design. The workshop will address the interdisciplinary framework opened by Behavioral Objects and the experimental perspective that brings together and combines these disciplines.


The Apprentices: Objects with Interacting Behaviours

Samuel Bianchini 
(Reflective Interaction Research Group/EndsadLab, 
École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, PSL University), 

Elena Tosi Brandi 
(Xdlab/Art Directions Nods, Orange)
Hugo Scurto 
(Inserm-Sorbonne Université and ISIR, CNRS Sorbonne-Université 
and Reflective Interaction Research Group)

The Appprentices is a design research project led by multidisciplinary teams from Orange Innovation and EnsadLab (the laboratory of the École des Arts Décoratifs, Paris). Following an experimental approach that combines human sciences (notably anthropology and cognitive sciences), robotics and computer sciences (machine learning) with digital creation and innovation, this project explores new relational modalities between humans and our robotic environments enhanced by artificial intelligence techniques. If our everyday objects might be empowered with abilities of movement and learning, action and reaction, and a behavioral dimension, how can we design new relationships with these robotic artefacts but also between them? 

This lunch talk will describe The Appprentices, an instrumental “dispositif” to experiment with such “behavioral objects”, focusing on an original dimension that allows movement and sound to be strongly paired: vibration, vibratory space as a system of communication and interaction. Specifically, the talk will detail the participatory design process that enabled practitioners and researchers from diverse disciplines to collaborate in the prototyping of the dispositif, in an attempt to entangle technical components of these robotic objects with concepts of agency, animacy, learning, and vibration.

05:00 – 07:00pm
Behavioral Objects, Agonistic Objects 
How and why to design art robotic objects fighting against and for their being conditions?

Samuel Bianchini 
(Reflective Interaction Research Group/EndsadLab, 
École nationale supérieure des Arts décoratifs, PSL University)

Created in an artistic context that also belongs to the wider field of robotics, “behavioral objects” are defined by their capacity to express a “personality” thanks to the quality of their movements and their actions and reactions, which are, in this case, regarded as “behaviors.” Non-figurative, these art objects have no need of being useful - their activity does not have a specific function or usage - and they have built-in energy sources that are, generally, not visible, making it impossible to attribute to a third party the energy directly required to make them move, the physical cause of their activity. 

If their expressive capacities can be provided through the ability to move and interact dynamically with the environment, what kind of interaction could we design to stimulate the attribution of behaviors and even personality? How to build an emotional and reflective relation with this robotics object through an aesthetic dimension in operation? 

Based on the presentation of several art projects developed in the framework of our Behavioral Objects research and creation project, we propose to consider the design of this objects through an agonistic approach. Even in operation, these objects are still in construction: in a kind of new homeostatic perspective, they are always seeking for their balance. They need to fight for that, against and for their being conditions. Exhibited such objects it is to exhibit this fight. It requires now to configure relations of forces, internal as with the environment. This new kind of settings as to consider aesthetic, symbolic and technical dimensions gathered in real-time operation. It raises the possibility of an agonistic design, a way to set conditions for a sensitive and reflective experience for objects and humans.

vendredi 8 avril 2022

Drôles d’Objets: A New Art of Making

[Reposted from KHK:]

Robots, autonomous artifacts, connected objects: how can we design and understand these strange objects that renew our interactions with others and the world around us? We are more and more often invited to enter into a relationship with robots or machines, whether for practical (therapeutic, professional, scientific) or playful purposes. This type of relationship is rapidly developing beyond simple functional use, automatic or mechanical action, towards a type of interaction that involves our effort to interpret the behavior of these objects. Why and how are we tempted to interact with unusual objects that ‘come to life’, move and evolve? The study of these objects interests a wide range of fields in science, art and design. I can mention, among others, robotics, AI, art and design, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, language sciences: each field develops its own notions, methods and tools, often in multidisciplinary contexts. What answers can the philosopher bring to the roboticist’s questions? How can psychology feed on the work of anthropology? Can artists contribute to the sociolinguistics of human-machine interactions?

In order to interface views in art, design and scientific practices on both these objects and the interactions they cause, the Psyphine research group joined forces with partners from the University of Lorraine, La Rochelle University and the Zero1 Festival for an interdisciplinary conference called “Drôles d’Objets” held during October 27th – 29th, 2021 in the harbour of La Rochelle [1]. In French, the adjective “drôle” covers a wide range of meanings and can be translated as amusing, entertaining, silly, creepy, surprising, funny, interesting, unusual, thought provoking, etc. The term refers to a complexity of issues which characterizes these curious objects as well as the various ways researchers, artists and designers address them.

The conference gathered more than 35 participants coming from various fields of research, such as computer sciences, robotics, art, design, psychology, management, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics. Organized around four main panels, the conference also devoted an afternoon to showcases, workshops and posters with Antoine Desjardin, Giancarlo Rizza, Dominique Deuff, Marion Voillot, Arnaud Blanchard, Romina Romay, Yann Boniface or Xavier Hinaut. The work of artists in residence Agustín Ramos Anzorena and Fabien Zocco (with his project Spider and I) were also presented during an evening session.

Starting with a session dedicated to conception practices, the conference first addressed questions related to the methods, tools and know-how associated with the design of interactive objects. How do we design an interactive animated object? What are the parameters, characteristics and properties we can play with so that an animated object becomes a “partner”? What are the tools, knowledge and technologies that can be mobilized? The first panel, coordinated by Nicolas Rougier, offered inputs on the diversity of approaches regarding not only the design of objects but also the tools and the methods employed to address conceptualizing from various disciplines. The session featured contributions from Jeanne Lallement and Juliette Passebois on service robots in commercial types of interaction, Mariela Yeregui on her research and creation project “États d’alerte” (State of alert), which illustrates the otherness of machines as a potential threat, Ghiles Mostafaoui on natural and intuitive interaction design in robotics and computer science, and Sylvain Raynal on the autonomy of the subject in his relation to industrial machinism and freedom.

The conference also addressed questions on the observation and the interpretation of results. How can we design an experiment? How can we understand what is happening during an interaction with an animated object? What can we measure, evaluate, and observe? What do we learn from these experiences? How to interpret data from experiments with animated objects? Can we trust the testimony of the subjects? Coordinated by Valeria Giardino, this second panel gathered contributions from Guillaume Nassau, who asked whether a robot is perceived as an interactant or as an object for discussion, and Manuel Rebuschi, who explored questions associated to mental projections and animism using Kendall Walton’s theory of fiction.

I had the pleasure to coordinate the third session, focused on health- and care-related issues. Robotics and computer sciences have entered this field in various ways. A number of projects are, for instance, concerned with the cohabitation of humans and robots. Some aim at replacing humans in work situations. Robots are also used as a new sort of mediation tool for caregivers. However, their therapeutic contribution remains difficult to establish. With contributions from Jean-Pierre Merlet on the conception and the experimentation of assistive robotic objects, Gloria Michiels on the ethnography of humanoid robots in care spaces, Olivier Duris and Charlotte Labossière on the use of robots regarding children suffering from autistic spectrum disorders, and Quentin Dumoulin on the role that fabrication laboratories could play in pedopsychiatry, the panel addressed questions raised by robots and artificial intelligent-based objects. Are they useful tools or rather gadgets? What is their role? Is their aesthetic appearance important? Do they replace the work of caregivers or are they rather a new tool in the therapeutic process?

Finally, the last session coordinated by Virgine André addressed experiences conducted on telepresence, interactive systems and virtual reality. Gathering researchers mainly working in the field of language and education sciences, the panel explored the effects of telepresence oriented technologies on social interaction. Maud Ciekanski and Virginie Privas-Breauté presented the results of a comparative study of immersive technologies for language learning. Jean-François Grassin showed how telepresence robots modify attention processes during a meeting. Joséphine Rémon, Christelle Combe and Amélie Bouquain, presented an experimentation on telepresence robots conducted within the project “présence numérique” (digital presence). Caroline Vincent, Christine Develotte, Mabrouka El Hachani and Justine Lascar addressed the methodology for studying interactions in mixed groups using telepresence robots.

The conference concluded with an intervention by anthropologist Denis Vidal and neuroscientist Frédéric Alexandre who aimed to put into perspective the work conducted during the week for a larger audience. The recording of their intervention, which is in French, can be viewed on the website of the University of Lorraine:

This interdisciplinary conference showed the necessity of crossing the viewpoints of different disciplines when it comes to the design of interactive robotic systems. It showed that despite the differences, only a transversal approach involving engineering sciences, humanities and social sciences, artists and users can address the major issues that these “drôles d’objets” pose to our societies.

[1] The proceedings of the conference can be found here.

Käte Hamburger Kolleg (c:o/re) - Lecture Series

Social Anthropologist Joffrey Becker, Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg: Cultures of Research (c:o/re) at RWTH Aachen University and Research Associate at Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale at the Collège de France, talks about human-machine interactions and social changes associated to the design of intelligent systems. This talk was part of the Lecture Series „Digitalization of Research” at c:o/re.