Dr. Andrei Korbut

c:o/re Junior Fellow 10/23 – 09/24

photo by Jana Hambitzer

I am a sociologist of technology. In my studies I focus on human–machine communication, applying ethnomethodology and conversation analysis to reveal the detailed ways in which humans organize their interactions with computers. My previous research considered the user interactions with voice assistants, the customer practices of communicating with telephone chatbots, and the digitalization of workplaces in medicine. Prior to joining the KHK c:o/re, I was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Internet Studies (Bochum, Germany), where I studied the public demonstrations of anthropomorphic robots (some results of the project can be found in my blog: https://eyeontherobots.blog).

The Drosophila of Robotics: Artefactual Life of Robot Pepper as a Tool of Knowledge Production

The project is an ethnographic study of knowledge production in robotics. Using the case of robot Pepper, introduced in 2014 and advertised as the “first social humanoid robot able to recognize faces and basic human emotions,” the project examines how Pepper became a standard tool in robotics labs around the world. In order to unravel the complex entanglements of robot Pepper as a successful tool of knowledge production, the project will trace its path from the customer order to the manufacturing company to the description of an experiment in a published paper. As the central passage point in Pepper’s artefactual career is a robotics lab, the project focuses on laboratory practices, where Pepper is integrated into the local research culture in a particular laboratory, but this local culture is also adapted to the unique affordances of this particular type of humanoid robot. The proposed project thus continues two interrelated lines of Science and Technology Studies: laboratory studies and instrument studies. This case study of the Pepper robot also aims to highlight the often-neglected aspect of the role of humanoid robots in modern societies: humanoid robots, such as Pepper, enable the merging of commercial, academic, and public practices and imaginaries, and this merging is made possible by robotics labs.

Publications (selection)

Korbut, Andrei. 2023. How Conversational are “Conversational Agents”? Evidence from the Study of Users’ Interaction with a Service Telephone Chatbot. Social Interaction. Video-Based Studies of Human Sociality 6(1). https://doi.org/10.7146/si.v6i1.137249

Korbut, Andrei. 2021. Domestication of Artificial Intelligence: Smart Speakers and Transformation of Everyday Life. Monitoring of Public Opinion: Economic and Social Changes 1: 193–216. (In Russian)

Korbut, Andrei. 2018. “Sorry, I Cannot Understand”: Ways of Dealing with Non-Understanding in Human-Robot Interaction. Laboratorium 10(3): 57–78. (In Russian)

Korbut, Andrei. 2014. The Idea of Constitutive Order in Ethnomethodology. European Journal of Social Theory 17(4): 479–496.