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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

First-year seminar students swarm Farinon as robots

Photo by Shirley Liu for The Lafayette
Last week, students in theater professor Michael O’Neill’s first-year seminar walked around Farinon dressed as and acting like robots.

If you visited Farinon last Thursday during the lunch break to find people greeting you with metal faces and mechanical movements: no, robots haven’t invaded College Hill yet. Those were just students in theater professor Michael O’Neill’s first-year seminar (FYS) class Staging Science, Playing Technology.

According to Aven Lancaster ‘26, a student in the class, the FYS centers around the interactions between technology and theater.

During this acting exercise, students donned expressionless metal masks and walked around Farinon acting like robots. The activity was meant to demonstrate themes discussed in the FYS regarding how people react to technology.

“We’re talking about the increasingly dissolving border between human beings and machines. How much of us — how much of our lives — is governed by machines? How much do we think we govern machines?” O’Neill said. “We decided it would be interesting to have this installation where students are impersonating robots and just to see what kind of reactions they got from other students.”

From this exercise, students realized that the line between machine and human is sometimes demarcated only by a mask.

“One simple mask can change everything,” Charlie Reardon ‘26 said.

“Someone’s face is definitely like a characteristic of being human because you’re able to look them in the eyes. You’re able to see their imperfections, their skin,” Lucas Phillips ‘26 said.

“But these?” Phillips said, referring to the expressionless masks they wore. “They’re scary as hell, I guess.”

Students recalled the stark difference in treatment they received once they put on the mask.

“People will talk about you directly in front of you as if you can’t hear them just because you’re not speaking. It’s really amazing,” Daniel Hayes ‘26 said.

O’Neill hoped that the exercise would teach students “how we like to keep our distance between ourselves and machines, and when machines invade our space or imitate us we kind of get freaked out.”

Kwasi Owusu-Boateng ‘26 summed up this lesson succinctly: “People don’t want to be messed with.”

Overall, the exercise was a success, with both O’Neill and the students leaving Farinon satisfied with the experience.

“It was really fun,” Hayes said. “I think we all had a lot of fun doing that.”

“I think I made enemies,” Phillips joked.

“They’re first-year students and it takes a lot of courage to do what they did,” O’Neill said. “I’m impressed.”

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Shirley Liu, Managing Editor
Shirley Liu manages, edits, and manages edits.

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