How do we feel when a robot dies? Emotions expressed on Twitter before and after hitchBOT’s destruction

Kathleen C. Fraser, Frauke Zeller, David Harris Smith, Saif Mohammad, Frank Rudzicz


Abstract
In 2014, a chatty but immobile robot called hitchBOT set out to hitchhike across Canada. It similarly made its way across Germany and the Netherlands, and had begun a trip across the USA when it was destroyed by vandals. In this work, we analyze the emotions and sentiments associated with words in tweets posted before and after hitchBOT’s destruction to answer two questions: Were there any differences in the emotions expressed across the different countries visited by hitchBOT? And how did the public react to the demise of hitchBOT? Our analyses indicate that while there were few cross-cultural differences in sentiment towards hitchBOT, there was a significant negative emotional reaction to its destruction, suggesting that people had formed an emotional connection with hitchBOT and perceived its destruction as morally wrong. We discuss potential implications of anthropomorphism and emotional attachment to robots from the perspective of robot ethics.
Anthology ID:
W19-1308
Volume:
Proceedings of the Tenth Workshop on Computational Approaches to Subjectivity, Sentiment and Social Media Analysis
Month:
June
Year:
2019
Address:
Minneapolis, USA
Venue:
WASSA
SIG:
Publisher:
Association for Computational Linguistics
Note:
Pages:
62–71
Language:
URL:
https://aclanthology.org/W19-1308
DOI:
10.18653/v1/W19-1308
Bibkey:
Cite (ACL):
Kathleen C. Fraser, Frauke Zeller, David Harris Smith, Saif Mohammad, and Frank Rudzicz. 2019. How do we feel when a robot dies? Emotions expressed on Twitter before and after hitchBOT’s destruction. In Proceedings of the Tenth Workshop on Computational Approaches to Subjectivity, Sentiment and Social Media Analysis, pages 62–71, Minneapolis, USA. Association for Computational Linguistics.
Cite (Informal):
How do we feel when a robot dies? Emotions expressed on Twitter before and after hitchBOT’s destruction (Fraser et al., WASSA 2019)
Copy Citation:
PDF:
https://aclanthology.org/W19-1308.pdf