Robots, the Media and Culture

The current state of society has become dependant on technology and connectivity. However, when it comes to robots–which intrinsically merges these two entities together–societal views begin to alter.

I intent to research and examine media representations and socio-cultural values regarding the acceptance of robots.

Robots have become a prevalent icon within the media, however studies have shown that societies ability to embrace them is dependant on their socio-cultural standing and how the media portrays them.

“Technology is defined largely by how people and the societies in which they live view, respond, and react to it. Thus, we can say that technology has a socially-embedded meaning in the sense that how an individual shapes his or her understanding of a technology is directly linked to evolution in prevailing social attitudes.” ( Young et.al, 2009, p. 3)

The media plays a strong role in the way that certain beliefs are conveyed to audiences. Certain types of exposure have one of two effects: reinforce a fear that the robot will invade humanity and take over or it will open the audiences mind up to the possibility of co-existing with robots.

“People’s previous experience with robotic technologies is very limited, so we expect them to strongly leverage media as an important source of information. This includes classic science-fiction-like literature, movies, and television, as well as more modern and fact-oriented news sources. Designing robots around media trends can be an important aspect of acceptance.”  ( Young et.al, 2009, p. 12)

My research is based of the core belief’s stated in the Theory of Reasoned Action (Young et.al 2009, p. 4). This is where socio-cultural norms and attitudes result in a behavioural intention within the audience. In relation to robots, the way that they are portrayed and presented to the audience directly impacts their behavioural intention to accept robots.

Robots were designed to take part in everyday life, however in certain socio-cultural groups, this means two different things.

In America, robots are seen as modes of destruction, ones with the ability to overpass the authority held by humans and wipe-out mankind.

This specific viewpoint is is one that is expressed through the media with movies such as ‘The Terminator‘ and ‘I am Robot.‘ Movies such as these play on the moral panics and social anxieties that have been culturally instilled within audiences. Technologies are not cold or impersonal, we humans perceive them that way (Jenkins, 2011). This is due to the fact that cultural ideals influence the media representation of robots in an effort to appeal to a target audience (Knight, 2014).

This graph suggests making robots look human-like is good to a certain extent until they start to look eerie and creepy until robots reach human likeness again. Thus, the bell-curve noted in the graph. (Knight, 2014)

Studies have shown that in Japan, robots are portrayed as cute help makers with a ‘soul.’ (Knight, 2014)

This ideal is reinforced by the experiment conducted by Corey Kidd in 2008 where he used robots to assist in weight loss.

He noted the response of three control groups; using pen and paper, touchscreen or a touchscreen robot. At the conclusion of the experiment he discovered that those who used pen and paper lasted 2 weeks, whereas those who used their robot extended the experiment trail for an extra two weeks. Interestingly, amongst the group that used the robot to aid in their weightless journey, majority had named their robots and attributed genders, although, there was one person that did not turn their robot on.

My question here: why was the robot never turned on?

My research will look into this notion of accepting robots through the examination of media representation and socio-cultural norms.

I intend to conduct further research into the topic and develop questions which I will then use to ask media professionals who are well versed in the development of Robots. As a digital media student, I have access to senior lectures and tutors who critically knowledgeable in this specific area. I will choose two media experts in the field to interview who will then become primary sources for my research project.

I plan to present my findings in a digital artefact in the form of a video. I have chosen to use a video to display my research as it is a visual representation not only on what I have discovered but also in my skills to conduct an interview, edit and produce a video. This is a key aspect of my digital artefact as it will add to my portfolio for my future employment endeavours.

However, I may run into certain challenges with my chosen digital artefact. Due to the format being a video, I run into issues such as lighting and mechanical errors like loss of audio or visual. I also run into scheduling issues where I am limited in the time I have to conduct an insightful interview. I need to find a time that best suits not only my own timetable but also the busy schedule of my interviewees. In order to solve this problem, I have made myself available over a week to be able to conduct interviews.

I plan to space out each stage of my research process in order to allow sufficient time to complete each task.


At the conclusion of my research, I intent to present a well rounded, visually appealing and insightful digital artefact that addressed the public’s acceptance of robots in relation to media representation and socio-cultural norms. I hope to uncover new thoughts on the topic which will change the way we think of and accept robots.



Cory Kidd, Designing for Long-Term Human-Robot Interaction and Application to Weight Loss. January 2008. Ph.D. Media Arts and Sciences, MIT. <http://robotic.media.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2015/01/KiddPhDThesis08.pdf&gt;

Jenkins, H 2011, ‘Does this technology serve human purposes?: A necessary conversation with Sherry Turkle (Part One), Confessions of an aca-fan, 22 August, viewed 1 May 2017 <http://henryjenkins.org/2011/08/an_interview_with_sherry_turkl.html&gt;

Knight. H 2014, ‘How humans respond to robots building public policy through good design, Brookings, 29 July, viewed 1 May 2017 <https://www.brookings.edu/research/how-humans-respond-to-robots-building-public-policy-through-good-design/&gt;

Young. J, Hawkins. R. Sharlin. E & Igarashi. T 2009, ‘Toward acceptable domestic robots: applying insights from social psychology,’ Journal of Social Robotics, vol. 1, no. 95 <http://www.jst.go.jp/erato/igarashi/publications/001/SORO-1.pdf&gt;



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