Separating noise from signal:: The ethnomethodological uncanny as aesthetic pleasure in human-machine interaction in the United States

Eitan Wilf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Because ethnomethodology was founded in cybernetics, it institutionalized the idea that interactants strive to maintain interactional order and compensate for disorder through negative feedback mechanisms such as “repair work.” This idea informed a key strand in the study of human-machine interaction in the United States, especially the idea that humans are inclined to repair the gaps in machines’ behavior and thus sustain the feeling that they are interacting with intentional entities. In some situations, however, humans prefer to expose and even exacerbate machines’ interactional incompetence. Such a preference manifests the aesthetic category of the uncanny, here theorized as the sudden awareness of the material foundations of one's immediate world, an awareness that emerges when those foundations become “noisy” and begin to reflexively point to themselves.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)202-213
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Volume46
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the American Anthropological Association

Keywords

  • United States
  • animation
  • cybernetics
  • ethnomethodology
  • human-machine interaction
  • robotics
  • uncanny

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