When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
The dissertation proposes the outlines of a sociology of machines for understanding human-machine relations, especially those that exceed the dominant normative frameworks. Bringing together social theory, artificial intelligence research, and human-machine interaction literature, the dissertation argues for the need to devote attention to alternative realities with technologies from a sociological perspective. This move serves as a critique of the dominant manner in which technologies are thought with, which is as means to the demands of an instrumental rationality. In the face of threats to other forms of life and relationality, the thesis insists on doing things otherwise, including sociological conduct itself. The thesis proposes using creative methodologies such as research-creation as a way to reinvigorate sociology to develop its capacity to address the multiplicity of human machine relations.
The thesis centers on machines that cannot be easily sublimated under frameworks of instrumentality, control, and management. It looks at relations with useless machines, broken machines, or machines that are treated as legitimate social actors. This allows the outlines of a theory to emerge based on the recognition of multiplicity of machines as well as humans. Thus, while establishing itself on an alternative ontology that takes seriously the contributions of other-than-humans in constitution of social reality, it also moves beyond the view that machines simply extend the logic of the contemporary power structures.
The thesis addresses these questions first by interrogating the conception of agency at the intersection of George Herbert Mead’s and Alan Turing’s thought. Secondly, it investigates the intimate relations developed with social robots to understand the development of different sensibilities in humans. Then it inquires into generative models to better gauge the necessary transformation of our conceptions of agency. Finally, a diagnosis is made through Heidegger’s thought on technology to grasp the essence of technology, and a pathway is deduced for a sociology of machines that employs lively methodologies to make sense of the contemporary moment of machinic socialities.