Seeing Like a Rover: Team Work and Human-Robot Relations

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


How do you work with a robot millions of miles away to make scientific discoveries on a planet you've never set foot on? Although much work in human-robot interaction describes the meaningful relationships that humans forge with their robots in one-on-one encounters, when robots venture into places where humans cannot go - in search and rescue operations, ocean voyages, or even into space - they do so as part of a large human team. Decisions about what the robot should do and where it should go are therefore the result of large group interactions instead of individual human cognition: the realm of organizational sociology. This talk draws on over a decade of ethnography with NASA's robotic spacecraft missions, specifically focusing on the Mars Exploration Rover mission. Going behind the scenes of the mission, I show the meaning-making, emotional connections, and embodied synergy that scientists develop as they work with their robots millions of miles away on a daily basis. This begins by learning to see through the robots' 'eyes' on another planet, yet the peculiar social arrangement of mission work produces a deeper connection to the robot explorers too: one that is no doubt responsible for the extraordinary success and unexpected longevity of the mission team. Studying robotic spacecraft teams demonstrates how humans build a particular and peculiar empathy with their robotic colleagues that goes beyond anthropomorphism. Instead, this case points to the many and unusual ways in which organizations participate in our interactions with, understanding of, and ultimately care for the robots we work with in everyday life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHRI 2019 - 14th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Number of pages1
ISBN (Electronic)9781538685556
StatePublished - Mar 22 2019
Event14th Annual ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, HRI 2019 - Daegu, Korea, Republic of
Duration: Mar 11 2019Mar 14 2019

Publication series

NameACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction
ISSN (Electronic)2167-2148


Conference14th Annual ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, HRI 2019
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Human-Robot Interaction
  • Teamwork


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