German Society for the History of Technology (GTG) Annual Conference May 22-24, 2009 at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main

If “the atom” and then “the gene” were considered by History of Science and Technology as symbols of the 20th century, then “the robot” ultimately joined their ranks at the beginning of the 21st century. In science fiction, visions of the future were and are being constructed about the possible use of robots. These visions often show a rather ambivalent view of these machines. Even current robotics casts both positive and negative lights on them. Thus, developers and producers promise that in the future robots will contribute to the solution of such large and manifold problems of humanity as environmental catastrophes or caring for the elderly. A particularly controversy of the topic lies therein that robots appear not only to be surpassing humans in regards to particular activities, but also to be replacing them: with regard to heavy labor in industry, particular cultural skills such as arithmetic or music, or in social work, such as in the care of the handicapped, children or the sick. Therefore, a challenge is to research if these developments will change the self-conception of people in its relation to itself and to machines. To arrange this question historically and to answer it is the task of the History of Technology. The goal of the planned interdisciplinary conference is threefold. First, it should be discussed how the History of Technology can approach a (temporal-)historiography of robots and robotics, in which the presentation of robots in museums and exhibits would be analyzed. Second, the history of robotics and robots should be concretely discussed on the basis of various topics. Finally, it should be shown by the example of robotics that the History of Technology can deliver relevant contributions to answering modern questions. The History of Culture and Technology has studied robots for quite some time: it spans from cult use in antique temple automatons on through courtly culture of automatons in the early modern period up to the modern industrial use of robots. Thereby, also museums contribute to the research and presentation of the history of robots. Let the following topics and fields of interest be mentioned: – History of the vision of the future for robots – Interaction between science fiction and robotics – Historical change in the perception of the man-robot relationship – Robotics in international comparison – Application errors of robotics and its history (industry, medicine, military, service, toy industry…) – Historical decisions regarding the use of robots in particular sectors – The sociality of robots – The design of robots in the course of time: humanoid robots as a model? – Historically based technology assessment Abstracts for presentation suggestions (max. 350-400 words) should be sent along with a one-page curriculum vitae until January 6, 2009 to: Catarina Caetano da Rosa, [ mailto:[email protected] ][email protected]. Contact: Catarina Caetano da Rosa RWTH Aachen Lehrstuhl für Geschichte der Technik 52056 Aachen