Very excited to announce that the articles in our Haptic Media Studies issue of New Media & Society are now available from Sage’s Online First portal. Short descriptions and links to articles appear below. Abstracts at the bottom of this page.

We’re happy to report that the Editors’ Introduction to the special issue, elegantly titled, Haptic Media Studies. is unlocked at Sage’s portal.

David Parisi and Jason Archer argue that HMS can productively emulate Visual Culture Studies and Sound Studies in their manifesto, Making touch analog: The prospects and perils of a haptic media studies.

Rachel Plotnick provides excellent theoretical and historical context for the dematerialization of buttons accomplished by the touchscreen in Force, flatness and touch without feeling: Thinking historically about haptics and buttons, .

Approaching the question of haptic media as a challenge of archiving and preservation, James A. Hodges considers the materiality of videogame interfaces in How do I hold this thing? Controlling reconstructed Q*berts.

Christopher O’Neill examines techno-social formations of ‘im/proper’ touch via different measurement tools in Haptic Media and the cultural techniques of touch: The Sphygmograph, photoplethysmography, and the Apple Watch.

Mark’s expansive contribution On haptic media and the possibilities of a more inclusive interactivity is one of two manifestos in the special issue that helps set the boundaries for the present and future of HMS.

We’re very lucky to have Deborah Lupton’s contribution on haptic media on the quantified self, Feeling your data: Touch and making sense of personal digital data.

Also fortunate to feature a contribution from Gerard Goggin on the relationship between accessibility, media, and touch: Disability and haptic mobile media.

Ingrid Richardson and Larissa Hjorth explore the embodied haptic relationships between users and their mobile devices in their excellent piece Mobile media, domestic play and haptic ethnography.


David Parisi and Jason Archer
In this article, we argue for the urgency of establishing a coherent tradition of haptic media studies, suggesting that the fields of visual culture studies and sound studies provide analogs, however imperfect, for modeling a new touch-oriented approach to media. This call to make touch like the senses of seeing and hearing echoes previous movements in touch’s discursive and institutional history, as investigators in prior generations similarly aspired to transform tactility through the development of new institutionally grounded research programs. Furthermore, we outline one possible genealogy of haptic media that attends specifically to the power relations expressed through the technoscientific harnessing of touch by haptics. We close with a programmatic set of suggestions for operationalizing haptic media studies.

Rachel Plotnick
In recent years, concerns have cropped up about the disappearance of analog buttons in favor of flat, slick touchscreens that ask little from their users’ fingers beyond swipes, touches, and taps. This form of interfacing has generated concerns both about usability and about how users relate tactilely and affectively with digital media. This article suggests that worries about these discursive and material shifts related to finger force and flat design continue a conversation begun >100 years ago when the very concept of a “button” was new. Stitching together past and present, this study identifies a persistent struggle to make sense of how humans touch and feel machines, with questions about user agency, labor, individuality, and authentic engagement coming to the fore. Additionally, it makes a case for encouraging scholars to work at the intersection of history and haptic media systems.

James A. Hodges
Preserving a historically significant video game frequently requires either preserving or adapting a touchable interface for contemporary use. While control techniques are often evaluated in terms of fidelity between in- and out-of-game actions, this essay emphasizes several ways that fidelity must be actively constructed. Bringing a haptic perspective on video gaming into conversation with game history and preservation, this essay examines ways that textual materials surrounding and supplementing a work can be used to construct haptic fidelity. The video game Q*bert is selected as a case study both because of its historical and cultural significance and because it makes idiosyncratic use of controller and force-feedback technologies. The essay concludes that playing Q*bert in a preservation setting requires several unique accommodations at the level of touchable interface, and each accommodation illustrates another way that supplementary texts help construct historical haptic fidelity.

Christopher O’Neill
This article draws upon cultural techniques theory to propose an approach to studying haptic media as media technologies which train or discipline touch and which serve to produce touch itself as a coherent and ‘proper’ communicative technology. This article analyses the different forms of touch which have coalesced around the sphygmograph, a nineteenth-century pulse writing technology, and photoplethysmography, a contemporary heart rate–measuring technology which has been remediated as part of the Apple Watch. This article demonstrates that nineteenth-century clinicians drew upon the sphygmograph to authorise doctorly touch as newly ‘proper’ within a changed technological context. By contrast, an analysis of the place of error within the Apple Watch’s photoplethysmograph demonstrates how contemporary self-quantifiers are encumbered with an unreliable measuring apparatus which can only generalise a form of ‘improper’ touch, touch which fails to know the body and which remains tied to a ‘proper’ touch which lies elsewhere.

Mark Paterson
What is the relationship between the ‘haptic’ and the ‘tactile’ when it comes to media? We might question whether there is such a thing as ‘haptic media’; in other words, is there a type of media that invite the attention of one modality rather than another, or that foster certain types of interaction over others? If we were to speak about ‘haptic media’, to what extent does it engage directly (only) with touch, and to what extent does it involve some form of enhancement of another modality? In what ways can haptic media appeal beyond the visuocentric norm of the screen, and therefore to non-normate or disabled users? Further, to what extent does the haptic in particular benefit from ‘sensory substitution’, which is most usually of touch for vision in assisted living technologies for the blind, or of sound for touch for the deaf, for example? Certain historical instances of sensory substitution systems are discussed below, including Norbert Wiener’s ‘hearing glove’ and Bach-Y-Rita’s tactile–visual sensory substitution (TVSS) system, to make a larger argument about the role of haptic technologies, and haptic media, for more inclusive digital interactions.

Deborah Lupton
People’s encounters and entanglements with the personal digital data that they generate is a new and compelling area of research interest in this age of the ascendancy of digital data. Masses of personal information are constantly generated via people’s use of digital technologies and used for a variety of purposes by a range of actors. People are faced with the conundrum of how to interpret, control and make sense of their lively data. In this article, I explore the topic of how personal digital data and their circulations can be made more perceptible and therefore interpretable to people with the use of three-dimensional materialisations. These materialisations invite users to ‘feel your data’. As I show, ‘feeling your data’ has two meanings: the sensations of touching these three-dimensional objects and the visceral responses that are generated from these and other sensory encounters with data.

Gerard Goggin
This article examines haptic media from the standpoint of disability media studies. Its central case study is the smartphone moment, in which mobile communication emerges as a mass haptic media form. The smartphone as a form of haptic media engages dynamics of disability, including touch, vibration and proprioception. In particular, vibration is an important contribution of the smartphone to haptic media. Overall, the article argues that we need to understand the socio-technical dynamics of disability, and its complex relationships with senses and technology, in order to understand the histories that constitute current media – as well as to imagine future haptic mobile media.

Ingrid Richardson and Larissa Hjorth
In this article, we explore the material, sensory and corporeal aspects of digital ethnography, primarily in the context of mobile media use in the domestic environment. We align our methodological approach to the ‘sensory turn’ in theory, situated loosely under the rubric of new materialism, and outline the insights that a post-phenomenological method can offer. Drawing from our current research into everyday media use conducted within Australian households, which involved a range of data collection methods aimed at capturing the embodiment of mobile media, we explore the significance of play in and around haptic interfaces. Mobile games are evidently integral to our embodied ways of knowing, and there are a number of challenges faced by the mobile media researcher who seeks to document, understand and interpret this contemporary cultural and everyday practice.


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