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The Automaton of Affect in Japanese Robotics by Dr. Daniel White

March 16, 2023

Can robots express or even “have” emotion? This online lecture will explore this question by looking at emerging social robots in Japan.

Presented by Simon Fraser University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology in collaboration with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Department of History and the Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic.

March 21, 2023 | Tuesday | 5:30PM – 6:30PM PDT | Online via Zoom

What does it mean to automate affect? Can robots express or even “have” emotion? Could AI augment people’s emotional intelligence or even their ability to love? This lecture situates discussions on affect, emotion, and technology in anthropology in the context of contemporary Japanese technoculture.

It asks what happens to the culturally specific dimensions of affective experience when it is 1) formulated as a theory, 2) modeled in a machine, and 3) used as a technological tool to collect data and interpret human behavior. The lecture will explore this question through examples of emerging social robots in Japan with so-called artificial emotional intelligence.

About the Speaker: Dr. Daniel White, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
A cultural anthropologist at the University of Cambridge who researches the relationship of emotion, politics, and emerging media technologies. His recent book is titled Administering Affect: Pop-Culture Japan and the Politics of Anxiety, which analyzes various creative policy figures of Pop-Culture Japan, such as anime diplomats, "Cool Japan" branding campaigns, and the so-called "Ambassadors of Cute," in order to illustrate a powerful link between practices of managing national culture and the circulation of anxiety among Japanese publics. His current collaborative project documents experiments in building and living with machines with artificial emotional intelligence in Japan. Publications from this project can be found in the journals Cultural Anthropology, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and on his online project page at

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*Lecture recording is available upon request*