Hello Kitty display from CUTE exhibition at Somerset House, UK

ADM+S researcher writes for international CUTE exhibition

Author Kathy Nickels
Date 9 February 2024

ADM+S researcher, Dr Megan Rose joins internationally respected scholars to share perspectives on contemporary artworks as part of CUTE, a landmark exhibition exploring the irresistible force of cuteness in contemporary culture.

The exhibition taking place at Somerset House in the UK, examines the world’s embrace of cute culture and seeks to unravel cuteness’ emotive charge, revealing its extraordinary and complex power and potential.   

Cute studies specialist, Dr Megan Rose from the University of NSW node at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S) was chosen to write for the CUTE guide that accompanies the exhibition. Megan also assisted with the curation and sourcing of original works from Tokyo for the “cute cluster” section of the exhibition.

It features artworks by over 50 contemporary artists, presented alongside cultural phenomena from music, fashion and toys, to video games and social media.

The online guide, which accompanies the exhibition, unpacks the meanings behind a selection of objects in the exhibition.

In the catalogue Megan unpacks the cultural significance, meaning, and positive impacts of cute as it is intertwined in subcultures, video games such as Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, and a range of robots for the home, including QOOBO, a care robot and artificial companion.

“It was a pleasure to work with the curation team in selecting interesting objects to inspire the public to rethink their relationships with cute interfaces in technology design” says Megan. A number of items were curated based off her portfolio of writing on cute cultures.

In writing about QOOBO Megan says “With great attention paid to the engineering of its tail, this robot aims to deconstruct the soothing experience of holding a cat by exaggerating its key cute and ‘iyashi’ (mentally restorative) properties.”

“In Japan there is an extensive body of research that tries to understand why cuteness is so attractive, and how it promotes wellbeing,” says Megan.

“Cuteness has a long history in Japanese culture, but in particular the “iyashi boom” in the aftermath of the 2009 recession and 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami points to the high demand for soothing media and environments. Research shows that cuteness not only allows us to connect with and experience art and design, but also with ourselves and each other in affective networks of belonging.”

Megan’s research at the ADM+S investigates the impact of social robotics in the health sector, including therapeutic animal robots and telepresence technologies.

Her current creative-practice research focuses on assemblages of animals, humans and technology in the future of robot pets and therapeutic aids,and the role that cute morphologies play in facilitating and hindering these connections.

As a cute studies specialist, Megan collaborates on a range of projects that look at the intersections of popular culture, media and creative practice to promote community wellbeing and inclusion. She is interested in the intersections between cute media, care, voice and precarity in contexts such as girls’ activism, neurodivergent sensory seeking, Japanese mascot characters and social simulation games like Animal Crossing.

Dr. Megan Rose’s participation in the CUTE exhibition promises to enrich understandings of the irresistible force of cuteness in contemporary culture. Her insightful contributions to the CUTE guide catalogue and her innovative research at ADM+S underscore the profound impact of cute studies on various aspects of our lives.

The exhibition is featured 25 January to 14 April 2024 at Somerset House, UK.