Joffrey Becker

Describe yourself: Who you are and what you're doing?
I'm a Ph.D student in anthropology at the Ehess of Paris under the supervision of Carlo Severi. I'm working on issues related to the body image and anthropomorphism in robotics using the notion of performance. My main interest led on the performative aspects of human modelisation and how these models can transform our relations to nature. I'm also organizing the Artmap research seminar on robotic arts (Ehess - Quai Branly Museum) with Denis Vidal and Emmanuel Grimaud. And I'm also part of a workshop on arts and politics, led by Bruno Latour and Valerie Pihet at Sciences-Po Paris, where I work on the modelisation of earth in climate sciences and international negotiations.

How did your interest in robots / robotics start?
I have always been interested in technology. But my interest in robotics came quite late, about 6 years ago. As a student in anthropology, I was mainly interested in belief systems and how a singular experience can be worked through interaction using models or objects. I turned to human-robot interactions, a bit by chance, because they raise interesting problems of that kind. One of these problems, quite classic, is about our distance to nature and the way this gap works representations. Actually, this problem crosses both arts and sciences. I started to spend more and more time in robotics laboratories and talked with artists. And progressively I have been more and more fascinated by these technologies.

What kind of actions needs to be done in the community to increase the interest and the awareness of robots / robotics?
Well, I don't know ! Many things have already been done. And many things could still be done to get the public more involved into the society questions raised through robotics. My point of view is that robotics is already an important subject of interest. Looking at the long history of these machines, I'm always surprised that, besides they constitute answers to very concrete problems, they are still objects of fascination and wonder : "marvels of science". This type of relation to inventions is finally very modern, in the philosophical sense of that term. And this is probably the reason why we expect that people could reject robots in a near future. We know how modernity can turn a wonder into a monster, just think about the modern Prometheus of Mary Shelley. Naturally, robotics should continue to look for answers about what we are. But it could also be more attentive to the critics that arts address to perception, to society, or sometimes to science and modernity themselves. Encouraging this dialog between sciences and arts is a part of what we are trying to do with the Artmap research group. This group works about renewing the way we look at technologies, by relaying a vast network of initiatives, experiments and uses, at the crossing of high and low-technologies.


[source: Vive Les Robots!]

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Joffrey Becker 1

Joffrey Becker is a Ph.D student in anthropology at the Ehess of Paris. He is working on issues related to the body image and anthropomorphism in robotics using the notion of performance.

[image source: P. Heinen]

Joffrey Becker 2

Fred Abels presenting Dirk The Homeless Robot during the Artmap research seminar - March 2011.

[image source: A. Dubos]