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[ecrea] CFP: Haptic Media Studies

Fri Oct 30 23:02:56 GMT 2015

*CFP: Haptic Media Studies*

Call for papers for a themed issue of NEW MEDIA & SOCIETY

Guest editors: David Parisi, Mark Paterson, and Jason Archer

Abstracts due (400-500 words): November 8, 2015

Interacting with, navigating, and manipulating media has always depended
on touch--whether turning pages, folding paper, depressing buttons,
typing on keys, or twisting knobs, there is always an act of touching at
the heart of mediated communication.  The recent rise of touchscreen and
gestural interfaces, mobile computing, video gaming, wearable
communication devices, and emerging virtual reality platforms disrupts
the previous material stability of these media interfaces, prompting the
adoption of new, embodied navigational habits.  At the material level,
we now touch media in novel ways, becoming accustomed to their shape,
size, texture, temperature, and weight, while also learning to be
receptive to the signals media objects transmit to us through a hitherto
seemingly dormant tactile channel.

Media Studies, under the sway of an ocularcentrism operating in western
culture more broadly, has long neglected considerations of touch,
however.  Insofar as it does attend to hapticality or tactility, the
discipline frequently mobilizes an ideologically-loaded, intuitionistic
theory that assigns this sense modality an essential set of immutable
physiological qualities.  Unlike visuality, which admits of some
complexity with regard to the modality of sight and its dominance in the
sensory hierarchy, especially within dedicated fields of scholarship
such as ‘visual culture’, hapticality seems by contrast unwavering and
constant, grounded in the body’s stable biological reality.  Lacking a
formalized, comprehensive, empirically-grounded account of touch’s
historical and cultural life, Media Studies feeds forward the idea that
touch is physiologically immediate and by its nature experiential, and
consequently exists outside of—and above—history and culture.  By
contrast, empirically-informed accounts of touch outside of Media
Studies render altogether different, and far more dynamic, conceptions
of touch: Sensory Anthropology, Art History, Literary Theory, Computer
Science, Education, Cognitive Science, and Architecture each approach
touch with priorities and biases idiosyncratic to their fields.

It is to foster a tradition of Media Studies that locates touch at the
starting point of its analysis that we seek contributions around the
theme of Haptic Media Studies.  Like the fields of Sound Studies and
Visual Culture before it, a touch-oriented media studies emerges as “an
intellectual reaction to changes in culture and technology” (Sterne,
“Sonic Imaginations,” 3). Our project here is to reconsider or rewrite
extant accounts of media and thereby emphasize a previously-neglected
sensory dimension of mediatic experience.  Inevitably, such a
reorientation will involve a new set of theoretical questions,
historical considerations, interdisciplinary connections, and research
methods to arrive at a theoretically literate and empirically-grounded
understanding of mediatic touch.  At the outset of this endeavor, then,
it is tempting to offer a haptocentric Media Studies as a counterpoint
to the ocularcentric, and more recently, aural-centric ones that it
attempts to displace. Instead, perhaps we think of this not so much as a
displacement through re-centering, but as a new orientation for Media
Studies that prompts us to be attentive to the haptic relations always
already at the core of mediatic experiences. By advancing a
touch-oriented tradition of Media Studies we hope to help make the field
adequate to the shifting configuration of media interfacing practices,
expanding its borders outward to encompass a sensory modality previously
treated in a largely haphazard and piecemeal fashion. Further, by
building upon and synthesizing the accounts of touch scattered
throughout the works of media and communication theorists such as
Marshall McLuhan, John Durham Peters, Mark B. N. Hansen, Richard Grusin,
W. J. T. Mitchell, and Erkki Huhtamo, this new orientation to the haptic
positions Media Studies to productively contribute to the conversations
about touch that occur outside its disciplinary borders.

_Possible topics include, but are not limited to:_

             - Touchscreen remediations of ‘old’ media interfaces
(print, radio, television, telephone, telegraph, typewriter)

             - Triangulations of gender, media, and touch

             - Touch’s role in mobile and location-based digital media

             - Haptics and past/present/future virtual reality systems
(especially at the dawn of a new generation of VR products - Oculus, HTC
Vive, Morpheus/PlayStation VR)

             - Tactile and haptic aspects of predigital and 'dead' media
interfaces (buttons, keys, knobs, dials, sliders, levers, pages)

             - Submodalities and divisions of touch (active/passive;

             - Accepted/assumed divisions between touch and the other

             - Assumed hierarchies of the senses

             - Cybersex/teledildonics and technologies of mediated
sexuality (Vivid’s CyberSex Suit, the RealTouch, OhMiBod)

             - Haptic interface and haptic display technologies,
including scientific, aesthetic, medical, and cultural applications

             - Semiotic functions of touch in media

             - Formal and informal regulations around communicative or
social touching

             - Touch and tactility in videogames

             - Tactile/haptic/gestural metaphors/iconography operating
in digital media (e.g. ‘poking,’ ‘thumbs up’)

             - The role of haptic aesthetics in considerations of media

             - Cross-cultural comparisons of media touch

             - Media, touch, and disability (e.g. sensory substitution
systems, prosthetics)

             - Changes in touch practices associated with touch-oriented
media (e.g. children’s altered tactile engagement with non-digital forms
of visual media due to the use of touchscreen)

             - The tactile Internet

Please send abstracts (400-500 words) to David Parisi
(parisid[at] and Jason Archer (jarche2[at] by Sunday,
November 8.  The editors will invite full papers from selected
submissions by mid-November, with full papers of 6000-8000 words to be
submitted for editorial review by February 15.  It is anticipated that
the special issue will be published online by late 2016, and in print by
mid 2017.

David Parisi, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Communication
Faculty Affiliate, Computer Science Department
College of Charleston
(parisid /at/ <mailto:(parisid /at/>
Twitter: @Dave_Parisi <>

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