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Animal Studies Journal

Abstract

This essay looks at the paradigm shift underway in human relations with artefacts from an animal studies perspective. As the Internet of Things (IoT) produces objects that are smart, sensate and agentive, how does this impact the continuing struggle for recognition of these same qualities in nonhuman animals? As humans acquire new digital companions in the form of therapeutic robots, what happens to perceptions of other ‘companion species’? Nonhuman animals are ubiquitous in IoT discourse as researchers draw on animal metaphors, models and analogies to think through the social and ethical implications of these new technologies. Focusing on representative texts by Sherry Turkle and Julian Bleecker that offer two contrasting positions on the value of these technologies, we show how regardless of the position taken, the use made of nonhuman animals in this emergent field strengthens assumptions that are harmful to animals and that animal studies researchers have fought hard to end. Our title pays homage to an essay in literary feminism by Mary Jacobus entitled ‘Is There a Woman in this Text?’ that famously drew attention to the way women are sacrificed in philosophical exchanges between men. This essay seeks to do something similar for nonhuman animals in highlighting the ways they risk becoming an unrecognised casualty of discourse surrounding smart objects and robots.

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