Another round of pieces will be going live this week. First up, and we’re happy to report that this piece is unlocked at Sage’s portal: the Editors’ Introduction to the special issue, elegantly titled “Haptic Media Studies.” Next, the manifesto that Jason Archer and I wrote, “Making touch analog: The prospects and perils of a haptic media studies,” where we argue that HMS can productively emulate Visual Culture Studies and Sound Studies. Full abstract below.

Rachel Plotnick’s “Force, flatness and touch without feeling: Thinking historically about haptics and buttons,” which provides some excellent theoretical context for the dematerialization of buttons accomplished by the touchscreen, will post later this week. UPDATE: Now posted here. Abstract below.

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.

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