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From Fiction to Science: The Social Role of Robots in Movies


Status Active - open for registrations
School IDA-gemensam (IDA)
Division COIN
Owner Franziska Babel

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Course plan

No of lectures

6-9 seminars (exact number depends on number of participants)

Recommended for

The course is interdisciplinary. It is mainly intended for PhD students in cognitive science, computer science, design and related disciplines. PhD students with a strong interest in Robotics and AI, but come from other research areas (e.g., STS, gender studies, or applications of AI/robots in education, healthcare, etc.), are also very welcome.

The course was last given

Is a new course.


This course is designed to prepare Ph.D. students to engage in meaningful research at the intersection of robotics, ethics and technology perception and depiction in science fiction.

1. Cinematic Analysis: To critically analyze the influence of science fiction movies on public perceptions of robots, examining how various depictions have shaped societal attitudes.

2. Research Gap Identification: To identify research gaps in the fields of human-robot interaction, robotics ethics, and technology perception, derived from the analysis of cinematic representations.

3. Synthesis of Literature and Film: To synthesize existing literature with film analysis to propose meaningful research questions that bridge the realms of science fiction and reality.

4. Contributions to the Field: To develop a substantial deliverable, such as a research proposal, position paper, or user study, aimed at contributing to ongoing academic discourse on the social role of robots.


Some background/interest in cognitive science, philosophy, HRI, HCI, and/or AI.


The course will consist of student presentations followed by critical discourse regarding the depiction of robots' social status in science fiction and how science fiction shapes expectations regarding technology in general society. The outcome of the seminar is aimed to be either a planned position paper or a user study regarding the seminar topic.


This course comprises a series of engaging lessons that encourage interdisciplinary thinking and research skills development.

Throughout the course, students will:

- Explore the evolution of robot portrayals in cinema, from classic to contemporary examples.

- Delve into the ethical dilemmas raised by cinematic robots, considering societal fears and aspirations.

- Investigate how movies influence public perception of real-world robotics, affecting human-robot interaction research and technology adoption.

- Work collaboratively to identify gaps in current literature, ultimately crafting research questions that contribute to the field.

- Produce a significant deliverable that advances our understanding of the social role of robots, informed by cinematic representations.


Amongst others the following research articles will be discussed:

Rosenthal-Von Der Putten, A., Strasmann, C., & Mara, M. (2017). A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... the effects of narration and appearance on the perception of robots. RO-MAN 2017 - 26th IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication, 2017-Janua, 1169–1174. https://doi.org/10.1109/ROMAN.2017.8172452

Weiss, A., & Spiel, K. (2022). Robots beyond Science Fiction: mutual learning in human–robot interaction on the way to participatory approaches. AI and Society, 37(2), 501–515. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-021-01209-w

Mara, M., & Appel, M. (2008). Science fiction reduces the eeriness of android robots: A field experiment. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(6), 2475–2476. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2008.03.008


Franziska Babel
Philipp Hock


Mandatory student presentations, active participation in seminar discussions, and coursework.


Franziska Babel


7.5 hp


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