The ethics and social consequences of AI & caring robots. Learning trust, empathy and accountability

Our fascination with robots is old. So are our misgivings. Science fiction has warned us of the day they will take over for more than a century. Social theorists have long been predicting the consequences of robots’ entrance into the workplace. Luddites have been warning of their impact on our lives and our relationships. And more nuanced examinations have probed the way we think of ourselves when we think of (and with) them. Yet, for many of us, robots in that stereotypical, personified form, as a unit we interact/intra-act with on an emotional level, have stayed in the realm of science fiction. We may have a robotic vacuum cleaner at home. We may have even given that vacuum cleaner a name. But an autonomous housekeeper robot who is part of the family (à la Rosie the robot maid in The Jetsons)? Not yet.

This is about to change. Robots are starting to enter our daily life. We and our children are going to be expected to interact with robots as they perform different kinds of care for and with us at different life stages. What will that do to how we – and how the robots – think of care? And how are we going to produce accountability, trust and empathy in the relational intra-actions we have, together?

In the project I am working with Katherine Harrison, Senior lecturer, Tema, Linköping University,  Ginevra Castellano, Senior lecturer, Social Robotics Lab, Uppsala University, and Dominika Lisy, Tema, Linköping University, Maria Arnelid, Tema, Linköping University, and Isabel García Velázquez, Tema, Linköping University.

The research is funded by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation and WASP-HS.

A Constant Torment. Tracing the Discursive Contours of the Aging Prostate

This project employs Medical Sociology, History of Medicine, STS & Medicine, and Feminist Science Studies in collaborative work around an evocative object, the aging prostate. It combines empirical rigor with an analytical interest in the practices surrounding medical technologies and their roles in how we conceive of and challenge gendered subject positions and bodily knowledges.


Each of the projects within this study traces the contours and textures of discourses that produce the aging prostate in different incarnations. Some examine cultural and historical constructions of the prostate as a node of pain, discomfort, and angst, using interviews and archive material. Others explore the medical discourses (including material semiotic practices), which enact the prostate as a discrete anatomical object to be physically examined and surgically removed, using observations, interviews, and analysis of medical discourses. And some projects delineate how the prostate is known and invoked in its absence, after surgical removal, using post-structuralist analysis of interview material.

Colleagues in this project were: Jelmer Brüggeman, Carina Danemalm-Jägervall, Jenny Gleisner, Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent, Alma Persson, Maria Björkman, Oscar Maldonado Castaneda, and Elin Björk.


The research was funded by a Swedish Research Council ”bidrag till framstående yngre forskare”.

Prescriptive Prescriptions. Pharmaceuticals and 'Healthy' Subjectivities

This research explored how ‘healthy’ subjects are prescribed - defined and framed - by medical pharmaceuticals. It examined the cultural meanings and expectations attached to four prescription drugs, and compared the policies and practices around their use in two European countries, Sweden and UK. The drugs studied were the HPV vaccine (to prevent cervical cancer), hormone therapies to delay puberty, treatments for benign prostate hyperplasia, and drugs against Alzheimer’s disease. Methodologically, the work employed qualitative methods: textual analysis of marketing material, policy documents, and patient advocacy group material; observational fieldwork; and interviews with policy makers, medical practitioners and patient advocates.


The project had seven participants and was spread across two universities: Linköping University (Sweden) and Lancaster University (UK). Working on this team were Prof. Cecilia Åsberg, Prof. Celia Roberts, Dr. Oscar Maldonado Castaneda, Ali Hanbury, Lisa Lindén, and Tara Mehrabi.

The research was funded by an ERC Starting Grant. Completed 2017.