Speculative Futures of Virtual Touch


Excerpts from “Weinstein A. (2016) Children of the new world. Picador. New York

For those of us who became parents in those first years we remember the awe and beauty of the new world. .. We recall the first steps we took in our new house. To reach out and touch the world was to be illuminated… Like Adam and Eve, some said… In this world, we seemed to understand, we were free to experience a physical connection that we’d always longed for in the real world but had never been able to achieve.

Mary’s pregnancy took us both by surprise. She had gone through menopause a decade earlier and we’d resigned ourselves to living childless lives. … The FAQs informed us we could remove an unwanted pregnancy as easily as dragging a file to recycle bin, but we were curious… The birth promised to be as quick and painless as a download…

Sir, your account is corrupted. You will have to reset all files to the initial settings.”

” What’s that mean?”

“You must delete all data from your account-… You will need to recreate your bodies again. I see you have children.”

” Yes.”

” You will need to delete them.”

” I’m not deleting my children!”

” Yes, sir, I understand. It is your choice. But the system has a fatal error; it will only get worse…You will not want your children in that house soon.”


Every Sunday, Mary and I go to the support group … It’s facilitated by Bill Thompson … One of his common pieces of wisdom is, ” don’t let anyone tell you they were real.” …

Bill’s advice has helped us get to a place where we can say what happened wasn’t our fault, that we’re not monsters, that our children didn’t die because of Us. …No the real monsters in this world are the hackers and scammers, faceless men and women who destroy lives for the joy of testing a virus, and who sacrificed our children to make a buck. …. When do meetings are over, Bill invites us to be physical like we were in the other world. “Human contact is all there is”, he says. And so we put our arms around one another, timidly at first, and eventually, with all the warmth of our bodies… There is nothing electronic about the gesture, no hum to the body, only the warmth of their breathing and the beating of their hearts.


Ready Player One


Touching Masterpieces


Tesla suit


What if…

Excerpt from Parisi D. (2018) Archaeologies of Touch: Interfacing with Haptics from Electricity to Computing. University of Minnesota Press.

“Simulation technologies become so precise that they can emulate the feeling of a hug from a distant loved one, or so accurate that they could reconstruct the exact sensation of an ocean breeze blowing against the face …

What then?


Touch has an inherent hostility to mediation … Perhaps we will find that touch has presented one of the last defenses of the real against the onslaught of the virtual.”

(Parisi 2018)