The Woman with the Dog: Relationships between Pet Robots and Humans in a Danish Nursing Home for People with Dementia


  • Simone Anna Felding Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen (DZNE) Witten; University of Witten/Herdecke, Faculty of Health, Department of Nursing Science
  • Prof. Lena Rosenberg Division of Occupational Therapy, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet; Department of Rehabilitation, School of Health and Welfare, Jönköping University
  • Dr. Karin Johansson Division of Occupational Therapy, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet
  • Dr. Sonja Teupen Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen (DZNE) Witten; University of Witten/Herdecke, Faculty of Health, Department of Nursing Science
  • Prof. Dr. Martina Roes Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen (DZNE) Witten; University of Witten/Herdecke, Faculty of Health, Department of Nursing Science



Dementia, Social Robots, Care, Nursing Homes, Denmark


In this article, we explore how pet robots come into being in a Danish nursing home for people with dementia, based on five months of ethnographic fieldwork. We argue that the researcher and the robot become an assembled temporary figure in the nursing home: the woman with the dog. We show how pet robots are characterized by their fluidity and can go from being mechanical robots to living animals in a matter of seconds during interactions with nursing home residents. The social robots are fragile technologies that disappear and cease to be used if people in the nursing home stop caring for them. Through relationships, the pet robots come into being together with other actors in the nursing home – a process that requires tinkering (Mol, Moser, and Pols 2010) and flexibility from those working with the robots. We argue that the woman with the dog can develop caring relations with the residents, but although there are hopes that pet robots are one of the technologies that can save a welfare state and care system under pressure, this is not something that can be done by the pet robots alone. Rather, the robots need care and tinkering to become embedded in the nursing home.


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