Arbeitsgruppe Sozialwissenschaftliche Theorie

DFG Research Project "Development of Humanoid and Service Robots:
An International Comparative Research Project — Europe and Japan"

[Deutsch] [日本語]

  • Term: September 2010 – May 2014
  • Funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation)


In modern democratic societies, for which the ethos of human rights is of fundamental importance, it is taken for granted that only living human beings are social persons. The premise that only living humans can be social persons, however, does not hold true throughout the ages and across cultures. As empirical findings in cultural anthropology reveal, the realm of the social would rather be delimited by virtue of the historically as well as culturally contingent process of interpretation.

The equation of the realm of the social with the world of humans has recently been challenged – especially by the advent of human-like "autonomous" robots. In an aging society, it is expected that important functions in nursing care for elderly and disabled persons will increasingly be performed by robots. When these technical beings start interacting with lay people on a daily basis, fundamentally new problems in man-machine relationships will emerge. According to the notion above, the entry of interactive humanoid robots into everyday life will raise also crucial issues about the borders of the social world – not least the ethical problem whether or not autonomous robots should be viewed as subjects of legal rights and duties.

The project deals with such border issues of the social world posed by the development of interactive humanoid robots, and explores the question of how these novel kinds of technological creatures will be treated in the different cultural contexts – Europe and Japan. By analyzing human-robot-interactions in practical situations, the project aims to enquire how the involved actors determine a situational status of robots. Moreover, emerging institutional orders with regard to a long-term relationship between lay people and robots will be investigated. Objects of inquiry include the roles of external actors whose expectations become relevant in the course of robot development (such as potential robot-users, ethicists, legal experts, etc.).


  • Anthropological Border Issues
  • Sociological Theorizing
  • Empirical Social Research
  • Science and Technological Studies




Prof. Dr. Gesa Lindemann

E-Mail: gesa.lindemann(at)


Dr. habil. Gregor Fitzi

E-Mail: gregor.fitzi(at)

Hironori Matsuzaki M.A.

E-Mail: hironori.matsuzaki(at)


Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg
Department of Social Sciences
Ammerländer Heerstraße 114-118
26129 Oldenburg GERMANY

Diana Ahlers (Secretary)
Tel.: +49 (0)441 798-4550
Fax: +49 (0)441 798-4584
E-Mail: ast(at)