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Spencer robot at Schiphol Airport

Our analysis of the social robot

In order to analyse the mediating roles that SPENCER plays, we can guide our imagination along the various relations humans can have with it, and along the implications of these relations for human practices and perceptions.

Human-technology relations:

The interactions between SPENCER and travellers typically have the character of hermeneutic relations, alterity relations, and background relations:

  • Hermeneutic: spencer provides travelers with information, thus offering representations of the airport, the airlines, et cetera.

  • Alterity: spencer interacts with people, as a ‘quasi-other’.

  • Background: spencer is ‘at work’ even when people don’t notice it, detecting them, analysing them, trying to determine if they might need help.


  • Practices: SPENCER influences how people behave at the airport - how they find their way, how they spend their time waiting, where they might have something to eat and drink, what they might buy, how they interact with other passengers, with airport personnel, et cetera.

  • Experiences: SPENCER helps to shape how people experience the airport, the personnel at the airport, the airline they’re flying with; it affects their stress level, their experience of waiting, and their confidence.

Implications of these mediations:

SPENCER includes and excludes people, since not all people at the airport will be able or open to interact with SPENCER.

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Philosophy of Technology and Design: Shaping the Relations Between Humans and Technologies

University of Twente

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