The Rhetoric of Social Robots: How Consumerism is Shaping Perceptions of Robotic Ontology
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Early producers of robots in the emerging social robotics space rely heavily upon polysemy to present their products as both possessing an anthropomorphic ontology and being consumer products for sale. The receptional fragments of early purchasers of social robots suggest they too engage in a reading of the robots as both social beings and technological products. However, both producers and consumers of social robots are able to sustain these disparate readings only because one interpretation is perceived axiomatically as more “real” than the other. In the following paper, the textual, material, visual, and receptional rhetorics surrounding two robots anticipated to arrive in homes in 2016 are examined. Through close reading and analysis of numerous rhetorical devices—including identification, interpellation, narrative and metaphor—a new form of relational polysemy is revealed. Characterized as a both/and/only reading, the polysemy expressed by both producers and consumers in the rhetoric of social robots indicates consumerism as the defining force in the ontological categorization of social robots.
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