Imagining Haptics and Robotic Surgical Assistant Futures — ICA Presentation

I will be presenting research from my dissertation at ICA in May via pre-recorded Video.


This paper focuses on how haptic engineers, surgeons, and robotic surgical assistants (RSA) coshape

human-machine touch communication through imagining RSA futures. My study is based

on the idea that touch is socially and technically co-constructed. That the meanings, values,

experiences, and practices associated with touch, and that guide touch actions, are negotiated

between social and material actors. I situate this research in conversation with the conceptual

orientations and theoretical commitments of human-machine communication offers a rationale for

engaging machines as communicative agents. I use actor-network theory and social construction

of technology to frame my mixed qualitative methods approach to identifying relevant social and

material actors including six haptic engineers, two surgeons, and robotic surgical assistants. Semistructured

and unstructured interviews are conducted with haptic engineers and robotic surgeons

in addition to lab observations and supplemental document analysis. My analysis scrutinizes how

haptics and surgical robotic futures are imagined, exposing the way that design decisions and

operating the RSA situate and reinforce the non-necessity of human touch in surgery, ultimately

paving the way for surgeons to collaborate with surgical robots, and embrace the potential

automation of surgery and the rise of a “superior” touch.