Photo credit: Dick van Aalst

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Digital Queers Conference by Dr. Ganesh

The New School, Theresa Lang Community and Student Center
55 West 13th Street, New York, NY

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Digital Queers

Digital Queers is a conference that will take place at The New School, June 25, 26 and 27, 2015, and will coincide with the Gay Pride in New York. During the month of June is also expected a sentence of the American Supreme Court on Equality and this event will be another opportunity to discuss issues and problems regarding equality and social justice with both global and local perspectives. Digital Queers will focus on issues related to social justice for the gay community at large.

Ms. dr. Ganesh will give a talk entitled “Robots are the New Queer” which is a direct follow up from her research at UC Berkeley 2012-2014 and a talk she gave at the Dutch Consulate in San Francisco on April 3, 2014 about robots, neuroscience and activism. She states:

"In this paper I state that robots are the new queer. I will discuss why the engineering and design of humanoid robots require input from critical theory and queer theorists and I will use the Proteus effect as a logical starting point for my line of reasoning. The Proteus Effect describes a phenomenon whereby online social experiences of an individual with their avatar in a virtual reality environment spill over to the offline world. Despite increasing cyber-psychological research of the spillover effect of virtual interactions involving an avatar, hardly any research so far, however, has focused on similar spillover effects of interactions involving a humanoid robot. Furthermore, humanoid robots run the risk of eliciting the uncanny valley effect in humans, which is an aversive response similar to the aversion of a homophobe who sees a same-sex couple walking in the street holding hands. In this paper I will reframe the Proteus effect and the uncanny valley effect as a bridge between robots and the queer. I will describe how a new theoretical framing of these effects may reshape both the design landscape of humanoid robots and the scope of the queer movement, as robots become the new queer."

This research is made possible by a grant from the Creative Industries Fund NL.

About Dr. Shanti Ganesh

Dr. Shanti Ganesh is a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist from the Netherlands, working on the crossroads of art, science and technology. From 2012-2014 she was a visiting scholar postdoc with the University of California, Berkeley, CA, where she investigated the nature of creativity. Her PhD research dealt with a neuroscientific investigation of how long-term gamers of massively multiplayer online role-playing games self-identify with avatar, an online artificial agent that represents the gamer in the online world. Dr. Ganesh has increasingly become interested in the hybridization of the boundaries between the human self and artificial agents, whether these are avatars or robots. Now based in the Netherlands, dr. Ganesh has initiated and is the director of kladlab for art-science research. Website: www.kladlab.nl.

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