Social Robots and Recognition

Socio-Ontological, (Machine-)Ethical, and Socio-Political Trajectories



– Marco Nørskov (Aarhus University & Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories)

– Sladjana Nørskov (Aarhus University)



Social robotic solutions are currently being developed and tested on a large scale. From workspace collaborators to caretakers of our children and elderly to intimate companions—social robots are imagined to enter into virtually all spheres of social interaction. They are heralded as solutions as well as cautioned against with respect to a variety of socio-political problems such as demographic challenges and inequality. Although appearance and functionality of these machines vary, what they have in common is that they draw on our fundamental relational capacities. A central topic in this context is recognition, here understood as the acknowledgement of the other as individual/collective and robot/human. Given the vital nature of this type of recognition—i.e. it being essential to our flourishing as humans—and under the assumption that human-machine interaction will increase, it becomes an urgent task to critically and constructively assess the status and transformational potential of recognition of/by social robots.

The prospects of extensive integration of social robots into practices where they become players in the human game of recognition (in its various conceptual nuances) raise numerous questions—for example: What does it mean to mis-/recognize a robot or being recognized by a robot? Are there any principal objections against robots being capable of recognizing others (humans/robots) adequately and meaningfully? Is simulation of this capacity enough to elicit genuine feelings of recognition in the interaction partner? How does recognition emerging from human-robot interaction encounters affect our self-understanding as individuals and collectives? How can recognition of/by social robots transform our interpersonal relationships and communities positively/negatively? How do social robots affect our normative and psychological theories of recognition? What are the structural properties of a social system (e.g., business organizations) that is based on humans and robots? How do reciprocal interactions between humans and robots enable and constrain each other? How do the elements of social interaction (e.g., meaning, power and norms) unfold in such social systems?


We invite authors to submit original research papers—conceptual as well as empirical—that explore the role and potentials of social robots in relation to recognition. As social robotics is a truly interdisciplinary field, contributions from all disciplines are encouraged (for example: psychology, anthropology, engineering, sociology, media studies, political sciences, law, business sciences, logics, etc.); however, the main point of inquiry should be philosophically motivated and embedded.

Topics of interest with respect to the emergence of recognition of/by artificial social embodied agents are (but not limited to): capacity criteria for artificial social recognition; socio-ontological challenges; practical implementation of recognition by robots; quality of human-robot interaction; assessment of recognition; robustness of relational theories; political and ethical boundaries and potentials of increased human-robot interaction; substitution/extension of human recognition capacities by artificial homoeomorphic equivalents; human enhancement/dehumanization; cultural aspects of recognition and their relevance for social robotics; recognition and social robots in public discourse, literature and media; recognition-based social practices, work relations and organizational forms that facilitate rather than constrain human-robot interaction.


– October 31: Deadline for paper submission
– February 28: Notification regarding submitted papers
– May 31: Deadline revised papers
– Summer 2018: Publication special issue


Further details are available here: