Concerns and speculations about relationships between humans and robots cross disciplinary bounds, from engineering and design to popular culture, ethics, and philosophy. While there is abundant material on the appearance, function, and interaction of social robots as objects, there is an absence of discussion and research addressing the instruction manuals, packaging, and marketing material that contextualize the relationship between robots and people. Instruction manuals, a form of technical communication, are where some of the first introductions are made between robots and their caregivers, and where the boundaries for their relationship are first laid out. The study of technical communication itself is well established—a cultural perspective on this topic is rare—but vital in assessing the cultural, political, and ethical dimensions of technology. Through a case study of Furby, an early example of a simple, companionable robot, this research explores the role that instruction manuals, and other related ephemera play in defining relationships with robots, and suggests an approach for analyzing artificial companionship as it develops into new and more complex forms.

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