Conceptualizing Robotic Agency: Social Robots in Elder Care in Contemporary Japan

Aronsson, Anne; Holm, Fynn (2020). Conceptualizing Robotic Agency: Social Robots in Elder Care in Contemporary Japan. Relations: beyond anthropocentrism, 8(1-2), pp. 17-35. LED Edizioni Universitarie

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Japan is a hyper-aging society, and its government is encouraging robotic solutions to address elder care labor shortage. Therefore, authorities have adopted an agenda of introducing social robots. However, increasing numbers of people in Japan are becoming emotionally attached to anthropomorphic machines, and their introduction into elder care may thus be perceived as contentious. By exploring human engagement with social robots in the care context, this paper argues that rapid technological advances in the twenty-first century will see robots achieve some level of agency, contributing to human society by carving out unique roles for themselves and by bonding with humans. Nevertheless, the questions remain of whether there should be a difference between humans attributing agency to a being and those beings having the inherent ability to produce agency and how we might understand that difference if unable to access the minds of other humans, let alone nonhumans, some of which are not even alive in the classical sense. Using the example of an interaction between an elderly woman and a social robot, we engage with these questions; discuss linguistic, attributed, and inherent agencies; and suggest that a processual type of agency might be most appropriate for understanding human-robot interaction.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology

UniBE Contributor:

Aronsson, Anne


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




LED Edizioni Universitarie




Anja Julienne Wohlgemuth

Date Deposited:

15 Jun 2021 15:48

Last Modified:

10 Feb 2023 22:23

Additional Information:

special issue, Co-author publication based on “Toward an Understanding of Nonhuman Minds: From Animal to Artificial Agency” conference




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