Objection! The staged relations between human beings and agentive objects as less anthropocentric alternative for the design of social robots and human-robot interaction.
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This thesis brings together two fields that at first sight seem to have little in common: theatre and social robotics. It argues in what ways dramaturgical principles used in object theatre to transform lifeless things into agentive objects offer a less anthropocentric perspective on the (way in which roboticists use theatre in their) designs of social robots. Therefore, this thesis firstly dives into the discourse in which robot developers deploy theatre as part of their research, in order to show how theatre and its theory is used in the design of social robots and human-robot interaction. It shows that roboticists only use forms of theatre in which humans and their actions are central, and therefore seem to model their non-human creatures after human actors in such a way that these creatures pass for human beings. In the second chapter, this thesis makes clear how — according to puppetry theorists — puppets can transform on stage into agentive objects, as another theatre perspective that does not reason from this passing for human beings. It is argued that the relationships between the staged puppets and humans and between the performance as a whole and the spectator are at the core of this transformation. In the third chapter, this text provides analyses of two object theatre performances, Coco Chanel (2017) and I/II/III/IIII (2007; reprised in 2017), on the basis of which the findings regarding chapter 2 are sharpened and nuanced. In this way, this thesis is able to discuss in its conclusion why an object theatre framework can be inspirational for a less anthropocentric design of social robots and human-robot interaction, for which four different perspectives are presented that social roboticists are invited to take into consideration: 1. the framework in which a social robot functions; 2. its dramaturgy; 3. its anthropomorphism; and 4. the inclusion of the uncanny.