Performing Robots

Made to Fail: Prototyping Brokenness and Unbecoming Robot


This PhD project by Ruowen Xu looks at broken robots in the theatre and art performance, to question how technological vulnerability informs new approaches to human-robot interaction (HRI) and what is at stake in these modes of prototyping. These robots on stage challenge popular stereotypes of mechanical figures as prosthetic replicas of the human bodies or their extended mind. They offer alternative models of automation that counter  expectations of utility and instrumentality with unpredictability and uselessness.  Informed by postcolonial and feminist scholarship, this project shows how more conventional approaches to robot design and HRI perpetuates problematic stereotypes and power relationships. Based on fieldwork in Japan and the Netherlands, this thesis looks at robotic- brokenness, vulnerability and indeterminacy as characteristics of new prototypes that challenge popular stereotypes while also continuing some of their problematic politics.