Call for Papers

Bald, and with a pretty face, the robot Sophia came into our lives. Derived from science fiction literature, films and theatre (R.U.R robot of Čapek), humanoids are now a reality. By mimicking the gestures, behaviour, the way of speaking and interactions of humans, robots, androids, cyborgs, avatars as avant-garde of technology still cause surprise and evoke uncanny reactions.

They have deep roots in ancient self-moving and self-sustaining manufactured objects, between the empirical and the theatrical called the automata. Standing at the intersection of natural knowledge, simulation, ludic play and technology, between art, spectacle and nature, since Antiquity, these rare devices were mechanical marvels presented and digressed in public buildings, theatres, exhibitions and fairs, science academies and plazas, as well as in private gardens.

Both automata and humanoid robots, including intelligent machines are at the core of the intersection between culture and nature, between science, technology and art. Stemming from the perspective of the history and philosophy of science and technology, this workshop seeks to promote the debate these devices give rise to in our society and the challenges they pose to our future.

The Interuniversity Centre of History of Science and Technology and the Centre for Philosophy of Sciences (within the research line Philosophy of Human Technology) are organising a workshop dedicated to the study of these artefacts and their impact on human self-understanding. This interdisciplinary meeting aims to build historical knowledge and philosophical reflection on automata, robots, androids, including avatars, cyborgs, and the reflection of the human technological condition based on the contribution of various experts from Arts and the Humanities to Science and Technology. Furthermore, it aims to establish bridges between the past, the present and the future.

Potential contributors are invited to submit a paper on the following topics:

  • Automata (especially in gardens)
  • Sophia and other similar androids in public space
  • The perception and staging of automata and robots
    • Avatars and contemporary “doubles” and avatar human encounters
    • The role of hyperrealism in shaping androids and virtual environments.
    • The human technological condition in a world of robots, Avatars, AI Agents
  • Performing intelligent machines and smart toys: historical and intercultural differences
  • Philosophy of technology of automata, robots, avatars and AI agents: fictions, alterity, sociality, aesthetics, make-belief, autonomy, responsibility and RRI issues
  • Ludification strategies of play with avatars, robots and automata
  • Human-automaton hybrids

Submissions must be sent via email to and include an abstract (350 words maximum) and a biographical note (150 words maximum). The deadline is January 15, 2019 February 28, 2019 (extended).


Ana Duarte Rodrigues

Ana Duarte Rodrigues is a Professor at the Department of History and Philosophy of Sciences of the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, and a Research Fellow at the Interuniversity Center for the History of Science and Technology.

She coordinates the research projects ‘Sustainable Beauty for Algarvean Gardens’ (2015-2020) and ‘Horto Aquam Salutarem’ (2018-2021), both funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology. She is the editor-in-chief of the open access journal Gardens and Landscapes, published by Sciendo. She researches gardens and landscapes through the perspective of the History of Science.

Pietro Conte

Pietro Conte is a Senior Assistant Professor of Aesthetics at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

His research focuses on illusion, hyperrealism, immersion, and the boundaries of aesthetic representation. In 2009 he was awarded the New Aesthetics Prize provided by the Italian Society of Aesthetics. Between 2015 and 2018, his project on hyperrealism in science and art was supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology through the scientific programme “Investigador FCT”.

Alexander Gerner

Alexander Gerner is a theatre director/playwright and researcher in philosophy. He currently holds a FCT Post-Doc grant with the research project “Philosophy of Cognitive Enhancement” at the Centre of Philosophy of Science at the Science Faculty of the University of Lisbon.

His project deals with issues in relation to philosophy of health and medical humanities, philosophical anthropology, the philosophy of biomedical sciences including (Neuro-) Pharmacology and the Philosophy of (Neuro-) Cognitive Sciences: PCE provides a common framework for an epistemology, ethics and a philosophy of human technology and its social and political assessment.


The venue for the workshop will be the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, host of the Interuniversitary Centre for the History of Sciences and Technology, and the Centre for Philosophy of Sciences, supporters of the workshop. Session rooms will be designated ahead of the event.