Losing touch: How robots transform the practice of surgery

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


Robots create a fundamentally different sensory and bodily engagement with the physical world. Building on a 25-month field study of the Da Vinci robot, an endoscopic system for minimally invasive surgery, we trace how the introduction of the robot was consequential for the practice of surgery. Following augmentations and reductions of surgeons capacities to perform surgery with the robot, the operating team had to enact major changes in how they coordinated their activities, which ultimately resulted in new work arrangements, whereby the surgeon supervisory responsibilities were reduced, the nurses autonomy and responsibility increased, residents were reduced to mere students and anesthesiologists became guardians of patients safety. In contrast to the previous studies of technology interplay with work and occupations, change could not be attributed to a specific technological feature or to a deliberate organizational restructuring. Instead, change occurred as a result of disruption and reweaving of the embodied dependencies underlying the collective performance. Our findings highlight the importance of embodied skilled performances for understanding how the introduction of novel technology affects organizing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAcademy of Management Proceedings 2018
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event78th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, AOM 2018 - Chicago, United States
Duration: 10 Aug 201814 Aug 2018


Conference78th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, AOM 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Robots
  • Automation
  • Coordination
  • Occupations
  • Sociomateriality


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