Art and disability - Broken Robot Girl #1 by Rob Sheridan and Tamar Levine

Arm amputees being subject to sub-human laws with regard to the way they are treated may as well look how robots do it.

Of course, this purely pragmatic approach may come across as a tad bit cynical - but then, upper extremity limb loss is a visible disability and it can and on any given occasion will significantly impair "normal" communication, first and foremost across visual channels - so any solution is also visual, so let's cut to the chase, shall we. Again: any solution is also visual. Not extreme, not wild - but visual. I am not talking about exaggerations here. This is a simple exercise in logic solutions to primarily visually caused emotional and social issues.

How do robots get by?

What laws apply to them? What lessons can be learned? Admitted, I am cynical - but just to a certain degree. If anything, I am extremely pragmatic. Because after people sometimes ignore us, treat us a bit like "things" ... let us look at the laws regulating human-robot interaction.

Isaac Asimov defined Three Laws for Robots:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Fair enough - however, that is a bit too nitty gritty, too technical, too much focussed on survival and death issues. It's not *that* dramatic usually.

So instead let us look at the Three Laws of Female Robotics:

1. A female robot must always have perfect makeup, even if her arm is falling off.
2. A female robot must have at least one spare head available to her at all times.
3. A female robot will only find a mate if she follows the First and Second Laws.

The illustrations "Broken Robot Girl" by Rob Sheridan and Tamar Levine are rather impressive, check them out.

And I don't just mean that you should glance at these images. I want you to take them in. What does your gut feeling tell you? Of course it'd be nice if someone repaired the female robot shown in these pictures - but isn't it far more important to your subjective well-being as spectator, as viewer, as voyeur, that she is made up, cleaned up, dusted off, not corroded and - apart from some mechanical deficiencies - presentable?

And now?

And now, there are lessons to be learned from this type of dry humor, from this technical type of art. Inspect these images closely. Because these Three Laws of Female Robotics do make sense.

I mean, after all, Goffman and Cloerkes write about the gut reactions that visible disabilities cause in unprepared on-lookers, encounters, others, gawkers. Both authors are definitely right about what they write, but that doesn't provide clues as to what to do about it. How to proceed. What about tomorrow? How to productively deal with the situation?

Spelled out for everyone, men and women alike, there are three rules to take home from this

1. You have to look neat - with or without arm, with or without prosthetic, with or without scars. Do not overemphasize the damage - emphasize the neatness of what remains. Clean yourself up, take care and go on.
2. You always have to have your brain switched on.
3. You will only get by by following rule 1 and 2.

That, in more practical terms, means the following:

1. Look neat and presentable - do things that you can do using everyday means of daily support. Never mind any mainstream beauty, that's out of reach. Never mind reconstructive surgery - if the damage is not absolutely massive and you really need surgery to get your bits aligned, don't worry. And don't worry how the prosthetic arm functions or how expensive it is or whether you just wear a stump sleeve - important is that you - as a person - look clean, neat and presentable. If the prosthetic is functional, that is a bonus but in no way relevant to its social meaning. Scrub and oil the prosthetic, or wear a clean sleeve, iron your clothes, shine your shoes, cut your hair, shave, cut/file your nails, brush your teeth, clean your glasses - and there you are. That's all that is ever needed for that.
2. Learn stuff, take education really serious. Think on your feet. Study. Think. That's really the way to go.
3. Stick to that.

If you want to improve life socially, expensive prostheses are a waste of resources. Learn a language. Get a new iron. See a dentist. Get your priorities right. Gadgets are relatively irrelevant. Wear a functional arm, or one that looks alright. Not perfect - alright will do. But clean it, and clean yourself up also. That is what I am talking about.

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Art and disability - Broken Robot Girl #1 by Rob Sheridan and Tamar Levine; published 20/12/2010, 17:07; URL:

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1620290718, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Art and disability - Broken Robot Girl #1 by Rob Sheridan and Tamar Levine}}, month = {December},year = {2010}, url = {}}