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Learning Robotics, with Robotics, by Robotics by Elisabetta Zibetti, Ilaria Gaudiello

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1Learning Robotics: Users’ Representation of Robots

1.1. Introduction: the ontological and pedagogical status of robots

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in users’ representations of robots within several complementary fields of study: cognitive psychology [KAH 06, JIP 07, BER 08, BER 11], science and technology education [e.g. SLA 11] and anthropology [GRI 12]. The reason for this interest lies in a shared wonder at a new technology which, despite being a manmade entity, i.e. an artifact, has enough power to surpass people in the accomplishment of several physical and decision-making tasks. This mixed definition of the robot, as an entity that possesses at the same time something that is greater than and something that is less than living and non-living beings, seems to challenge traditional ontological categories [SEV 10]. The difficulty involved in assigning robots either to the category of living entities or to that of non-living entities has led researchers from different fields not only to postulate the creation of a completely new category of objects but also to revise the traditional concept of “being alive” itself. In the words of MacDorman and colleagues [MAC 09, p. 486]:

“Among all human artifacts, perhaps robots share the most in common with their maker. Like computers, and in fact because they are controlled by computers, they can process huge amounts of information. Like powered equipment, they can manipulate their environment and move within ...

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