Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Weird Realism and Alterity Relations – and Some Remarks about the Gaze of Robots

Thu, November 12, 8:30 to 10:00am, Denver Sheraton, Plaza Ballroom E


This paper will discuss the relation between the so called ’uncanny valley’ as formulated by Masashiro Mori and the Lacanian notion of ‘partial objects’ within the framework of weird realism. The uncanny valley is a famous reference to a graph that visualizes the critical point where robots become ‘too human’ and thus generates an uncanny feeling in those who interact with them. The notion of uncanniness is, however, deeply rooted in the tradition of psychoanalysis. In the work of Freud we find a discussion of ‘Das Unheimliche’, which designates something that is profoundly bizarre and yet familiar. The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan utilizes this term to enter the domain of anxiety. Anxiety is for Lacan closely related to partial objects – objects of pure drive. We find an example of this in the 60’ies horror show ‘The Adams Family’. One of the characters is a strange autonomous hand known as ‘The Thing’. The Thing matches the description of being profoundly bizarre and yet familiar. What does this has to do with anxiety? Confrontations with partial objects cause the subject to feel anxiety because it triggers a sense of fragmentation. This can be understood as an occurrence of the Real that distorts our fantasy of being a coherent subject. Perhaps something similar is at stake in alterity relations where subjects experience a feeling of uncanniness when confronted with the gaze of a ‘too’ humanoid robot? This paper will thus try to expand on the postphenomenological notion of alterity relations by proposing a sub-category coined ‘anxiety-relations’.