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) co-shape 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. Semi-structured 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.