The IN-TOUCH project is a European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Award led by Professor Carey Jewitt (from 2016-2021). She and the IN-TOUCH team are based at the UCL Knowledge Lab, University College London. The project explores how the digital is reshaping touch and touch communication with a focus on five domains in which digital touch technologies are emergent: personal relationships, health and well-being, work, learning, and leisure.

Our attention is on touch as it is digitally mediated through haptic devices, wearables, robotics, virtual reality and other digital touch devices, systems and environments that go beyond the everyday touch screen. We are investigating digital touch interactions between people, between people and objects and ‘machines’, and are interested in both face-to-face or co-located touch and remote touch at a distance.

Through detailed, situated case studies across a range of social and technological domains, IN-TOUCH addresses social questions, such as:

  1. How does digital touch newly constitute our experience of communication with close and distant others?
  2. What might this mean for communicative norms, etiquettes and ethics?
  3. What interdisciplinary methods can describe and represent digital touch communication?
  4. How can we theorize digital touch as part of the broader sensorium?

IN-TOUCH treads new methodological ground by bringing together theories and methods from multimodality, sensory ethnography, arts and design, in order to find new ways of conceptualizing and studying ‘digital touch’ technologies. We use these methods to attend to digital touch as it is being developed, incorporated and imagined in labs, design and artistic practice, and in everyday life.

The project aims to map the complex landscape of digital touch communication and, in doing so, investigate the social and sensory dimensions of digitally mediated touch.