'My battery is low and it's getting dark': The Opportunity rover's collective persona

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePresentation onlypeer-review


The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity operated on Mars from 2004 until it was disabled by a dust storm in 2018. Its demise was declared in February 2019 after months of unsuccessful recontact attempts by scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This announcement sparked a global outpouring of grief that demonstrated people understood and related to the robot in a notably human-like manner. In short, it had been given a collectively understood persona. This paper presents a study of 100 digital postcards created by users on a NASA website that demonstrate the ways in which people expressed love, grief, hope, and thanks for Opportunity’s fourteen years of operation on another planet. In presenting this case study, the paper argues that certain personas are collective achievements. This is especially likely to occur for robots and other inanimate objects which have no centrally controlled or developed persona. The paper is situated within existing persona studies literature to extend and stretch the definition of persona studies and therefore expand the field in productive ways to incorporate the study of non-human personas.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2021
EventPersona Studies Online International Conference: Diversifying Persona Studies - Online
Duration: 23 Jul 202130 Aug 2021
https://ojs.deakin.edu.au/index.php/ps/conference (Call for papers)
https://ojs.deakin.edu.au/index.php/ps/conference (Conference website)
https://ojs.deakin.edu.au/index.php/ps/issue/view/195 (Proceedings)


ConferencePersona Studies Online International Conference
OtherRegistered participants (both presenting and non-presenting) will receive the conference program, including links to key note presentations, themed playlists, and compilations of extended abstracts, on the conference opening day of July 5. All registered participants will also be invited to attend the live-streamed webinar panel discussions, run 16/07, 23/07, 30/07 and 6/08. The timing of the webinars will rotate throughout the day to enable equitable access across timezones, and will be recorded and shared with registered participants.

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