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Mediations of Care: Brokering Labour in the Age of Robotics

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Developments in the field of social robotics have increasingly played with the boundaries between human and machine, using remote or tele-presence technological innovations as a way to mediate or revolutionize human-machine interactions. This paper explores one such development, namely the roboticization of care labour in the realm of education, and the ways in which it brokers relationships between human and non-human interaction. Drawing on fieldwork in the Philippines and South Korea and using the telepresence robotic innovation of Engkey as a case study, this paper describes practices that represent the convergence of technology, politics, and intimacies that shape the complexities of contemporary forms of labour migration, articulations of gendered and racialized "skill," and changing relationships between human and non-human. The paper argues that these relationships are intentionally produced mediations of care: gendered and racialized hierarchies that produce new forms of affective labour and sociality that are governed by modes of simultaneous disembodiment and embodiment, immobility and mobility, and marketized statecraft through vocabularies of innovation and exploitation. These technologically produced mediations of care have implications for how we understand the connections between human and machine and how labour and sociality are ultimately brokered in the context of a neoliberal and capitalist world order.
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Keywords: AFFECTIVE LABOUR; CARE WORK; ENGLISH-LANGUAGE LEARNING; HUMAN-ROBOT INTERACTION (HRI); INFRASTRUCTURE; MIGRATION; ROBOTICS; TECHNO-ORIENTALISM; TELEPRESENCE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2018

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