Imagining Remote Personal Touch

What are the possible roles and nature of touch in the context of personal relationships and, specifically, remote personal communication? While remote touch technologies are becoming more widely available within some medical and industrial contexts (e.g. in the remote handling of hazardous materials), devices for personal touch communication are still often confined to prototypes in computer labs. Rather than waiting for these devices to come to market, we designed a series of exploratory workshops with the aim to anticipate some of their social meanings and implications, and to ask what it would be like to incorporate touch in personal remote communication.

The workshops with scholars and students from a variety of social, cultural and disciplinary backgrounds, were designed to explore participants’ histories of remote personal communication and what kinds of touch communication might be possible, with what social, sensory, ethical and political consequences. A mix of brain-storming, rapid prototyping, and the physical engagement with a specific remote personal touch device, the Kissenger, helped us and participants to think through remote tactile interaction and a range of future communication scenarios.


Relevant publication:

Jewitt, C., Leder Mackley, K., Atkinson, D. and Price, S. (2018) Rapid prototyping as a method for social science: researching digital touch. In L. Pauwels and D. Mannay (eds.) Sage Handbook of Visual Research Methods, 2nd ed.

Jewitt, C., Leder Mackley, K. & Price, S. (2020) Digital touch for remote personal communication: An emergent sociotechnical imaginary. New Media and Society. DOI:10.1007/978-3-030-24564-1