Call: The Synthetic Method in Social Robotics (SMSR 2016) at ICSR 2016

Call for Abstracts (1000 words)

Workshop on
The Synthetic Method in Social Robotics (SMSR 2016)
@ The Eight International Conference on Social Robotics (ICSR 2016)
Kansas City, USA
November, 1-3, 2016

Important Dates:
Abstract Due – September 25, 2016
Notification of Acceptance – October 05, 2016

We are interested in submissions of original HRI and Social Robotics research, or research from related fields relevant to the topic of “Artificial Sociality”. The submissions, in the form of an abstract (min 800, max 1000 words), should be related to the investigation of one or more specific aspects of the application of the Synthetic Method in Social Robotics and HRI (e.g. theoretical, epistemological, applicative, socio-cultural, ethical aspects). In particular, we are interested in abstracts presenting original research works related with, but not limited to, the following questions:

  • Is it possible to identify a set of human and/or animal social competences that can be considered as an essential condition of “social presence” and/or “social competence” in robotic agents? How can they be implemented in robotic agents?
  • Should “Artificial sociality” be rooted in human and/or animal sociality? Or should it be ideated and developed as a new form of sociality? What could be the origins and grounds of a specifically robotic sociality?
  • Is it advantageous to implement human and/or animal sociality in robots? To what extent? Are there situations in which the reference to human and/or animal sociality results disadvantageous? What are these situations? How can we avoid them?
  • Are there scientific (experimental) explorations that allow us to investigate the differences between robotic “social presence” and “social competences” grounded in human and /or animal sociality, and robotic “social presence” and “social competences” based on other grounds?
  • What are the models of the social mind that are currently embodied in functioning social robots? What can be / are their impacts on human social ecologies in which these robots are currently operative?
  • Are there scientific (experimental) explorations based on the Synthetic Method that can contribute to a better scientific understanding of human and/or animal sociality?
  • Which is the relevant unit of inquiry for the synthetic modeling of human and/or animal sociality – individuals, dyads or groups? Are there scientific (experimental) explorations that can support definite answers?
  • What are social competences that today are successfully embodied in functioning social robots? What can be / are their impacts on human social ecologies in which these robots are currently operative?

The main topics of interests are, among others:

  • Synthetic Method (Synthetic Methodology, Constructive Approach)
  • Theories of (artificial) sociality
  • Mixed Human-Robot Social Ecologies
  • Robot as test-beds for theories of sociality, 
emotions, empathy
  • Artificial Sociality, Artificial Empathy
  • Artificial Social Presence
  • Artificial Personality
  • Artificial Biographical Memory


Contemporary advancements in Social Robotics, implying the introduction of robots in an increasing number of operative contexts populated by human agents, are rapidly accelerating the emergence of mixed human-robot social ecologies. The awareness of this imminent transformation, potentially able to affect the structure of human sociality, makes it urgent to support frontier research in Social Robotics with a reflective interrogation directed to identify the possible impacts of its technological production on human social dynamics and systems.

One of the essential steps of this complex and plural exploration consists in the clarification of the ways and the objectives that currently guide the construction of “robots as social partners”, that is, the analysis of methods and goals that today orient design, implementation, and integration, within human social contexts, of robots endowed with “social presence” and “social competences”.

The SMSR 2016 workshop intends to contribute to this investigation by focusing on the use of the Synthetic Method within the research fields of Social Robotics and HRI, that is, one of the most diffused methods in the development of “Artificial Sociality” for robotic agents. In its most generic expression, this methodological approach – often synthetized through the slogan “Understanding by Building”- prescribes scientists to model living and cognitive processes, lato sensu, through the construction of artificial systems capable of generating these processes. The goal is twofold: testing scientific hypotheses on the mechanisms underlying the target processes, and building better artifacts, able to exploit these mechanisms to enhance their performances.

The application of the Synthetic Method in Social Robotics and HRI generally consists in the attempt of re-creating aspects of human and/or animal sociality in robotic agents, in order to test theories about related social dynamics, and to improve social capabilities of these agents.
 The SMSR 2016 workshop aims at creating a cross-disciplinary forum analyzing and discussing ways, goals, possibilities and limits of the application of the Synthetic Method in Social Robotics, on the basis of the idea that the part of Social Robotics that currently is engaged in the robotic modeling of human and animal sociality offers a particularly relevant perspective to study the emergent social metamorphosis generated by “social robots”.


The abstracts involved in SMSR 2016 will be published on a web-site dedicated to the workshop shortly after ICSR 2016, so that they can be accessed later.

Moreover, it is planned to involve the keynote and the selected speakers in submissions to generate a journal special issue on the topics of Artificial Sociality and the Synthetic Method in Social Robotics.


If you would like to contribute to the workshop on “The Synthetic Method in Social Robotics”, please send an email to (cc: with:

  1. list of authors;
  2. title of the presentation you intend to propose;
  3. abstract of the presentation (min 800, max 1000 words).


Luisa Damiano, ESARG (Epistemology of the Sciences of the Artificial Research Group), University of Messina (Italy)

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