Selected Courses on Digital Art-UOWM

12 Δεκεμβρίου 2012


Filed under: Notes — admin @ 05:20
transsubjective-Of or pertaining to reality beyond the sphere of direct experience or of immediate knowledge.


One way of gauging the way that we are touched and affected by tactile properties of objects in space is through aesthetics [from Greek aesthesis, pertaining to the senses]. The aesthetic encounter with sculpture for example is a way of informing our visual sense with other senses, including the tactile, and the way that the senses are combined in our phenomenological perception of the world. Aesthetic contemplation of a sculpture is illustrative therefore of our everyday, embodied tactile-spatial experience.
The means by which this analysis can take place is through an examination of sculpture and architecture, in fact the set of forms between these plastic arts that form and shape space. These cause us to experience a set of embodied perceptions that highlight the unitary basis of the sensations, and particularly of touch and space. The body is central in perception for Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, and they dwell on the constitution of objects, or more explicitly ‘things’, as arising from the body’s interaction with the world. For Heidegger especially, what makes the ‘thingness’ of things is important, and this can come forward to us through concrete or stonelike examples such as sculpture. But a more explicit analysis of touch and space needs to depart from the body per se and the thingness of things, to see how the senses interact in our everyday, embodied experience of space.
While aesthetic theory is involved in this consideration, chiefly Merleau-Ponty’s (1964) reading of Cézanne’s ability to evoke tactility through the visual medium of painting, this chapter is not primarily on the aesthetics of sculpture or architecture, although the aesthetic encounter heightens our appreciation of touch and texture and mass, those qualities which inform our visual perception. 

Instead, I want to examine in a series of phenomenological snapshots of the encounter with objects in space what the prerequisites are for the ability to synthesise touch and space.
 Moving on from the rather abstracted or extraordinary aesthetic encounter with a sculptural object, which engages in the debate in aesthetics of ‘touch-space,’ what can be gleaned from this will be applied to more quotidian encounters. The argument will therefore be extended into the objects that are crafted, that are the work of the hands; and in these, like sculpture, the reciprocality of crafted and crafter, of toucher and touched, will be investigated in order to pursue the links between touch-space and visual space through the mediation of objects. 

These encounters do not involve solely the senses of sight and touch but also, in the approach and the navigation around such objects or shaped spaces, the haptic senses generally, thereby including tactile-muscular, proprioceptive and vestibular senses in the everyday encounter with things.
The examination then considers the way that perception and body memory are involved in a set of sensory investments in space that unfold from the body. This is partly accomplished through Gibson’s ideas of ‘affordances’ and Deleuze’s concept of ‘affect’, tying together the body, the perceptions of mass, shape, colour, and the texture of the world, with body memory.

Thus the discussion will take a more neuropsychological turn, away from the incarnated phenomenology of early Merleau-Ponty, and equally away from the metaphysical concepts of the flesh of the later Merleau-Ponty (1968). What I hope to achieve is something that accommodates the complexity of sensuous experience that lies in the interaction of bodies and things not only in the immediacy of the physical encounter, but the layerings and unfoldings of sensory phenomena that come from body memory into the world as we perceive it. It is in the interactions of the past, of both being touched and touching, that allow us to project forward, to make investments in perceived spatiality, in the present. What Henri Bergson, via philosopher Deleuze (1991), would term the collapse from ‘virtuality’ into ‘actuality.’
From the position that our vision is informed by other senses and body memory, then, to the position that our everyday interaction with objects relies on a set of sensory investments in objects in space, is the purpose of this chapter. Taking this position, however, supports a wider definition of ‘haptic’ in the way that Iris Marion Young (1990) sees it, as “an orientation to sensuality as such.” So by examining spaces as being invested with a complex assemblage of sensory information and body memories, the everyday experience of objects in space will be shown to take place in what unfolds from the body, a space of sensuality as such, what I will term ‘haptic space.’

Deleuze, G. (1991) Bergsonism (Athlone: London)

Gibson, J. J. (1979) The ecological approach to visual perception (London, Houghton Mifflin)

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1964) The Primacy of Perception and Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History and Politics, Tr. C Dallery, Ed. J M Edie (Evanston Il, Northwestern University Press)

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1968) The Visible and the Invisible, Tr. A Lingis, Ed. C Leforte (Evanston, Northwestern University Press)

Young, I.M. (1990) Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays in Philosophy and Social Theory (Bloomington, Indiana University Press)


from Greek haptesthaiof, or pertaining to, touch
We do not have only five senses. Psychologist J.J. Gibson (1979) argued, we have outward-orientated (exteroceptive) senses and inward-orientated (interoceptive) senses. But there are bodily senses that dancers and athletes know about that psychologists are only now getting to grips with. Proprioception is our awareness of our body’s position in space, and the vestibular sense is concerned with balance. 

Kinaesthesia is the sense of movement through space. 

I write about these somatic senses in an articleHaptic Geographies‘ for Progress in Human Geography (Paterson, 2009), in a review essay for Society and Space entitled ‘Charting the Return to the Senses‘ (Paterson 2008) and, more recently 

More-than visual architectures: vision, touch, technique‘ in Social and Cultural Geography (2011).
These bodily (somatic) senses inform our perception of ‘inside’ and ‘outside,’ of inner and outer space. 

Rather than discrete and separate, these senses act in concert to help give us our embodied perceptions of space. Touch is not only of the skin surface, but also involves the tactile-muscular and tactile-kinaesthetic senses, and these are inherently spatial.

The notion of ‘haptic space’ is not based purely on touch alone, nor on the duality between toucher and touched. It is “an orientation to sensuality as such that includes all senses” as Iris Marion Young in Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays (1990) phrases it. Following French philosopher Luce Irigaray, Young states:
Touch immerses the subject in fluid continuity with the object, and for the touching subject the object reciprocates the touching, blurring the border between self and other…
Thus we might conceive a mode of vision, for example, that is less a gaze, distanced from and mastering its object, but an immersion in light and color. Sensing as touching is within, experiencing what touches it as ambiguous, continuous, but nevertheless differentiated.
This is an example of the multisensory nature of our perception. We never perceive by vision alone; in fact, percipere means ‘to grasp’. We have many expressions about ‘knowing’ that invoke touch, such as wanting a ‘hands on’ experience. Especially in our relation to ‘things’, we desire to know them through closeness and the mediation of our touch.
“Seeing is believing, but feeling’s the truth.”We get to know objects, things in the world, through touch. We engage with the world proximally through touch, rather than merely encounter it in distanced, abstracted vision alone.
After art historian Alois Reigl’s haptic/optic distinction, Deleuze & Gauttari also widen the definition of haptic space in A Thousand Plateaus (1988), implying the ability to communicate or evoke touch by other means, for example Cézanne’s artwork. This haptic space is discussed by geographer Paul Rodaway (1994:55), who suggests that “each space and place discerned, or mapped, haptically is in this sense our space and because of the reciprocal nature of touch we come to belong to that space.” Cartesian optics leads to a sense of detachment from the world, from the thingness of things, and this is exemplified in the camera obscura and the perspective machines in use during the Renaissance (e.g. Crary 1990).
This detachment is of the eye, whereas the hand draws us into the world. Henri Focillon for example beautifully argues ‘In Praise of Hands’:
Sight slips over the surface of the universe. The hand knows that an object has physical bulk, that it is smooth or rough, that it is not soldered to heaven or earth from which it appears to be inseparable. The hand’s action defines the cavity of space and the fullness of the objects which occupy it. Surface, volume, density and weight are not optical phenomena. Man first learned about them between his finger and the hollow of his palm. He does not measure space with his eyes but with his hands and feet. The sense of touch fills nature with mysterious forces. Without it, nature is like the pleasant landscapes of the magic lantern, slight, flat and chimerical. (Focillon 1989:162-163)
CRARY, J. (1990) Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (London, MIT Press)
DELEUZE, G & GAUTTARI, F (1988) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Tr. B Massumi (London, Athlone)
FOCILLON, Henri (1989) The Life of Forms in Art, Tr. C B Hogan & G Kubler (London, Zone)
GIBSON, James J. (1979) The ecological approach to visual perception (London, Houghton Mifflin)
PATERSON, Mark (2008) ‘Charting the Return to the Senses’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26(3), pp. 563-69
PATERSON, Mark (2009) ‘Haptic Geographies’, Progress in Human Geography
PATERSON, Mark (2011) ‘More-than-visual approaches to architecture. Vision, touch, technique’, Social & Cultural Geography 12(3), pp. 263-281.
RODAWAY, Paul (1994) Sensuous Geographies: Body, sense and place (London, Routledge).
YOUNG, Iris Marion (1990) Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays in Philosophy and Social Theory (Bloomington, Indiana University Press)

Haptic Space and Bodily Expressions: 
A Bi-directional Relation of Affect 
Myrto Karanika
Abstract.  Extensive research on bodily and emotional 
expression has followed the increased interest in virtual reality as 
well as the recent developments of motion tracking technologies. 
However, most of these technologies are vision-based, 
consequently lacking the physicality of bodily expression itself. 
Moreover, such technologies tend to isolate the expressive body 
from its surroundings, thus interfering in the  relationship 
between the body’s expressions and the environment that 
engenders it. This position paper presents an attempt to explore 
bodily expressions in a tactile manner through the tangible 
properties of physical space itself.  


Investigating the bi-directional relation that we share with our 
surroundings, my work is narrowing down the focus on the 
relationship between spatial experience and bodily expression. 
Historically, spatiality has been addressed as a matter of 
measures and distances, with little room left for its tangible, 
affective dimension. As a result, the variable array of bodily 
senses has been greatly disregarded in an attempt to emphasise 
on a distant, idealized visuality. However, spatial experience is 
always embodied and multisensory, equally dependant on vision, 
hearing, smell and touch. 

In this paper, I will be briefly discussing the fundamental 
relation of the sensuous body with spatial experience, and I will 
be presenting my current work, which is an attempt to create a 
responsive haptic environment that shares a bi-directional 
relationship of affect with the body. 

I am proposing such an 
environment to be entirely constructed of a multi-textured fabric 
interface that not only evokes bodily expressions but also 
captures them in a tactile manner without use of sensors or 
vision-based tracking systems. 

Designed as a dense conductive 
grid, this textile spatial element can accurately translate bodily 
gestures into arrays of coordinates which are in turn fed into 
MAX/MSP to  be translated into sound. Therefore, user 
engagement with the interface not only depends on their bodily 
gestures but also requires a close interrelation of their senses of 
vision, touch and hearing. 

The following section will start with a short introduction to 
basic concepts of haptic space and its relation with embodied 
experience and emotional response. From there, I will continue 
with an overview of my work and how it is placed within the 
fore mentioned theoretical platform. The last section will be 
concerned with the technical details of the textile haptic interface 
I have designed and the gesture tracking method it employs. For 
the purposes of the AISB 2009 Symposium on  Mental States, 
Dept. of Computing, Goldsmiths Univ. of London, SE14 6NW, UK. 
Emotions and their Embodiment, I am proposing a live 
demonstration  of gesture tracking, using a sample of the fabric 


Spatial experience is a synthesis of all of our senses; within this 
synthesis all senses are interrelated and co-dependent and that 
constitutes their distinctness or separation purposeless when it 
comes to spatial perception [1]. In their famous A Thousand 
Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari [2] argue that haptic space ‘may 
be as much visual or auditory as tactile’, acknowledging that 
haptic embraces the sensory interrelation of the eye, the ear and 
the limbs.

 From this point of view, haptic is extended to address 
the essence of our embodied spatial perception; a perception that 
is simultaneously orchestrated
 by our vision, hearing and touch,
and that therefore reflects our bodily experience of space’s 
textural qualities: weight, mass, density, pressure, humidity, 
temperature, presences, and resonances. 

However, haptic can also be extended to involve emotional 
connotations and to reflect affective response. Translating the 
words haptic, sense and emotion in Greek, my mother language, 
the interconnection of the three concepts becomes obvious at 
once. Haptic originates in the Greek word  απτό, which means 
something that can be touched or grasp-ed. Sense, translated as 
aesthesi /  αίσθηση, in Greek involves notions of feeling, grasping and understanding. Consequently, the concept of ‘grasp’, in 
other words perceive, is core in both sense and haptic. Emotion 
on the other hand, translated in Greek as  αίσθηµα / aesthema, 
shares the shame root with aesthesi, as both derive from the word 
αισθάνοµαι / aesthanome, whose ambiguous meaning can be 
equally translated as  ‘I sense’ or ‘I feel’. Among these three 
words -haptic, sense, and emotion- there is an underlying relation 
that, if examined closely, reveals the very nature of haptic as a
sense that is ultimately bounded with emotional grasping. 
The idea of ‘haptic’ embodying notions of emotional 
experience / attachment has been repeatedly used by theoreticians 
like Merleau-Ponty [3], Kant [4] and Paterson [5]. Berenson [6] 
notes that our bodily response to the ‘tactile properties’ of our 
surroundings –and space- highly depends on our understanding of 
their ability to affect and ‘touch’ us, while Fisher [7] addresses 
haptic as the merging of the bodily senses and the affective aspect 
of what creates them.
Drawing on the above, my study on the relation of bodily and 
emotional response with the space that encompasses them starts 
with the design of a responsive haptic environment that addresses 
all sensory data as an inseparable narrative pathway upon which 
our spatial experience is unfolded. That is an environment whose 
qualities can trigger our senses, affect our bodily expressions and 
can be affected by them. Such an environment should be able to not only evoke bodily expressions but also to capture them and 
‘feed’ them back to its ‘organism’.

Of course, similar approaches 
have repeatedly taken place since the advance of computational 
systems that can provide interactive modes of communication 
between a space and its users. In most of the cases though, 
communication is established through distant modes of 
interaction such as sensors and vision-based tracking systems. 

It is my intention to engender a bi-directional relation of affect 
between the body and its surrounding environment that is entirely 
based on the two agents of the interaction: the space and the 
body, without having to embed ‘external’ systems into their 
channel of communication. This mode of interaction springs, like 
Palasmaa [8] puts it, from the tactile sensibility of ‘enhanced
materiality, nearness and intimacy’. 

To model such a form of 
intimate, tangible interaction, my focus has been on the design of 
a spatial interface that is capable of ‘perceiving’ bodily 
expressions itself, and which also presents a range of textural 
qualities that challenge bodily responses.

 My approach is greatly 
influenced by the work of Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa [9] 
who notes that space should be re-sensualised ‘through a 
strengthened sense of materiality, hapticity, [and] texture’; also 
by the work of Bloomer and Moore [9] which propose textural 
change as a generator of sensations that link the haptic materiality 
of a space with the bodies that inhabit it. 


To meet these goals, I have designed a custom-made fabric to 
be used as an enveloping interface for an installation space. This 
fabric prototype is knitted with non-conductive thread (PA, 
diameter of 0.20mm), and has conductive wire (tin copper, 
diameter of 0.10 mm) embedded on both its outer sides, 
horizontally on the one and vertically on the other, thus forming a 
conductive grid.
Figure 1. Example of Vertically Embedded Conductive Bands

 The conductive bands are wired to a complex of keypad 
encoders, which is in turn connected to an Arduino 
microcontroller. That allows for the physical textile nodes to be 
perceived within the Arduino programming environment as 
elements of a matrix whose rows and columns are accordingly 
equivalent to the parallel and vertical conductive bands of the 
fabric. Eventually, that enables the prototype to simulate a tactile, 
numerical interface whose resolution depends on the density of 
the conductive grid. The conductive elements do not make 
contact within the same plane unless they are compressed by 
touch. When the fabric is being  touched, the encoders detect 
which conductive elements make a connection. 
Figure 1. Interaction Design System
This way, the gestures of the users upon the interface are captured 
as arrays of compressed grid nodes, and are ‘transduced’ into 
arrays of integers that respond to the matrix elements. These 
integers are then passed to MAX/MSP to generate sound 
accordingly to the users bodily gestures. 
Before, explaining in more detail how sound is produced from 
the gestural movements of the users upon the fabric prototype, it 
is important to refer to the physical qualities of the interface when 
exhibited in space as well as to the reasons for which I have 
decided to relate the interface with sound generation.  Both sides 
of the prototype are layered with a translucent tulle surface upon 
which I am embroidering a variety of different stitches using 
yarns that vary in colour and weight. Apart from embroidery, I 
am also using a number of different techniques to process the 
tulle such as printmaking and collage. These processes result into 
a highly textured surface that acts as the skin of the prototype 
Figure 3. Details of the Embroidered Surface
With the conductive grid acting as the ‘nerves’ of the interface 
and the processed tulle acting as its skin, a quite abstract 
representation of the textile spatial element as a living organism 
evolves; a representation that sets the ground for a bi-directional 
relation of affect between the interface-enveloped space and the 
bodies it encloses.  The textured surface of the envelope attempts 
to intrigue the users senses of vision and touch, aiming to evoke 
bodily engagement. As soon as the users engage with the 
interface through the medium of touch, their gestures are 
translated into sound. That enables a straightforward relation 
between the visual / haptic qualities of the interface and the 
generated sound, allowing for gestural patterns to be 
‘choreographed’ and perceived both by the haptic qualities that 
engender them and by the audio output they generate. 
A number of different audio samples map the different textural 
/ chromatic qualities of the processed prototype skin, with 
‘warmer‘ sounds mapping the interface areas that are dominated 
by warm colours and/or smooth materials and vice versa. Within 
each textural area, a central grid node is assigned a given sound, 
and acts as the ‘command centre’ for its peripheral nodes. That 
means that within a certain radius  –defined by the size of each distinct textural area- the sound of all neighbouring nodes is 
interpolating with respect to their distance from the central node.
Figure 4. Example of Audio Interpolation Mapping
 When more than one person is engaging with the interface the 
sound is being produced as the merged outcome of their 
embodied engagement with the interface and with each other. The 
envelope can be approached from both its inner and outer side; as 
its weaving allows a certain level of translucency, the users’ 
figures become part of the interface patterns. Thus, apart from an 
auditory-oriented collaboration of the users’ gestures, a visual 
level of interaction among them holds also an important role in 
the orchestration of their bodily expressions. 

In this paper I have presented my attempt to design a 
responsive haptic environment that explores bi-directional 
relations of affect between space and its users by addressing the 
close collaboration of the senses of vision, hearing and touch as a 
medium for a fully embodied spatial experience. Within this 
relation both space and body are considered as living organisms 
that can equally affect and be affected by each other. The mode of 
affection between the two agents is immanent in their interaction 
without the need for ‘external’ systems, such as sensors or camera 
tracking methods, into their channel of communication. 
Such an environment consists of a space that is being 
enveloped by a highly-textured conductive fabric prototype, 
which can ‘perceive’ the users gestures as arrays of matrix 
elements. These elements are then being translated into sound, 
thus merging vision and touch (input) with hearing (output / and 
input) into a sensuous loop that ‘orchestrates’ the users bodily 
expressions and changes the space’s audio qualities.  
The work presented in this paper is still in a very early stage of 
development. The description I have provided so far is strictly 
based on small scale sample testing I have practiced myself. I am 
expecting improvements considering the accuracy of gestural 
tracking and sound generation as soon as I have user testings in 
larger scale pieces of the prototype.  I therefore consider the 
AISB 2009 Symposium on  Mental States, Emotions and their 
Embodiment  to be an exceptional opportunity to present and 
perform the application live to a wider audience, and I am looking 
forward to their feedback. 
The work presented in this paper is being developed as part of 
my MFA Computational Studio Arts degree. I would like to thank 
my tutors Janis Jefferies, Jane Prophet and Andrew Shoben as 
well as AHRC for supporting my studies. Also Olly Farshi and 
Jeremy Keenan for their contribution to the sound design. 
[1] M. Paterson, The Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects and Technologies. 
Oxford: Berg (2007). 
[2]  G. Deleuze and F. Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and 
Schizophrenia. London: Athlone (1988).
[3] M. Mereau-Ponty. The Primacy of Perception and other Essays on 
Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History and Politics. 
Evanston IL: Northwestern University Press (1964). 
[4] I. Kant. Critique of Pure Reason. London: Macmillan (1990). 
[5] M. Paterson. The Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects and 
Technologies. Oxford: Berg (2007).
              [6] B. Berenson. The Florentine Painters of The Renaissance. London: G.P.     
Putnam’s Sons (1906). 
[7] J. Fisher. Relational Sense: Towards a Haptic Aesthetics. Parachute 
87, 1:4-11 (1997). 
      [8] J. Pallasmaa. Hapticity and Time. Notes on fragile architecture: 
Architectural Review, 207:78-84 (2000).
[9] J. Pallasmaa. The eyes of the skin: Architecture and the senses. London: 
Academy Editions (2005). 
[10] K. Bloomer and C. Moore. Body, Memory and Architecture. New Haven, CT, 
Yale University Press (1978). 

December 14, 2012, Vienna
A Haptic Space: Praxis and Discourse
Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

With Elke Gaugele, Josephine Pryde, Florian Pumhösl, Sascha Reichstein, Willem de Rooij, Yorgos Sapountzis, T’ai Smith, and Leire Vergara Introduction & Moderation: Sabeth Buchmann, Rike Frank, Grant Watson

The conference will focus on the interrelation between (social) history and the history of style. Looking at the related idea of “haptic space”, formulated by the Viennese art historian Alois Riegl, who also worked as curator of textiles at the Museum of Applied Arts, the critical involvement of (post-)formalist art practice and discourse in the debate about the dominance of the optical will thus be contrasted with specific phenomena within formalist modern art and art history. The presentations will discuss the traditional and current status of textiles as intermedia regarding the materiality of transsubjective forms of aesthetic production, cultural knowledge and social relations.


10 – 10.15 Introduction
10.15 – 11 am Elke Gaugele (Cultural Scientist, Vienna), Style&Textile. Alois Riegls dispute against the overestimation of Textile Art.
11 – 11.45 Sascha Reichstein (Artist, Vienna), Guiding Patterns
11.45 – 12 am Coffee Break
12 – 12.45 Willem de Rooij (Artist, Berlin), About
12.45 – 1 pm Florian Pumhösl (Artist, Vienna), Textiles and Abstract Pictures
1.30 – 3 pm Lunch Break
3 – 3.45 pm T’ai Smith (Art Historian, Vancouver), Tactile Lessons
3.45 – 4.30 pm Josephine Pryde (Artist, Berlin), Tough Because Responsive
4.30 – 5 pm Coffee Break
5 – 5.45 pm Leire Vergara (Curator, Bilbao), Nothing to do in Sight: There is no sense of touch
5.45 – 6.30 pm Yorgos Sapountzis (Artist, Berlin), Un/identifiable Skin
6.30 – 7.30 pm Panel discussion, closing remarks

Introduction & Moderation: Sabeth Buchmann, Rike Frank, Grant Watson

TEXTILES: OPEN LETTER is a project by Rike Frank (Berlin/Leipzig), Grant Watson (London), Sabeth Buchmann (Vienna), and Leire Vergara (Bilbao). In collaboration with Akademie der Bildenden Künste Wien; Bulegoa z/b, Bilbao; INIVA, London; Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst and mzin, Leipzig; Allianz Kulturstiftung, and Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen.

Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna 
Institut für Kunst- und Kulturwissenschaften
Schillerplatz 3, 1010 Wien


Embarking on an archaeology of the technologies of touch, in an article forEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space (Paterson 2006) I have examined the history of haptic devices from telerobotics to the PHANToM™ desktop interface [Personal HAptic iNTerface Mechanism], and discuss tactile bodysuits and gloves, resulting in a narrative of the genesis of ‘presence’ and ‘immersion’ through various haptic technologies.
Furthermore, in a book chapter inNew Technologies and Emerging Spaces of Care (Paterson, 2010) I explore ideas of robot skin and the human-robot interface, and pursue various ideas of so-called ‘social presence’.
Looking at the role of technology in touch, where the synaesthetic basis of everyday perception is mediated through the use of interfaces and technological prostheses. For the idea of touch in technology is one that seems at last to be coming of age. Haptics, or the technologies of touch, is “one of the growth areas in human computer interaction or new types of sensory interaction with computers” (Steve Furner of BT, interview 8/9/00). While the concept of multimedia has been trumpeted for years, usually that has equated only with vision and sound. With smell devices in prototype form at MIT, it is haptics that is emerging as the next aspect of multimedia (Kramer in Hodges 1998; Furner 8/9/00). Haptics is, according to Salisbury (1995) “the newest technology to arrive in the world of computer interface devices.”
After many years of over-emphasis on the visual elements of computing for example, in PCs and videogame consoles, the other senses are beginning to become important. As processor speed and memory size increases dramatically in PCs especially, the “gap between capability and usability” of the computer is vast, in the words of Massie, co-inventor of the PHANToM haptic interface (in Mahoney 2000). Haptic technologies are making an appearance in high-end workstations for computer-aided design (CAD) as well as at the lower end, on home PCs and consoles, to augment the human-computer interface (HCI). Effectively this means adding a “new mechanical channel,” or a further strand, to human-computer communication so that data can be accessed and literally manipulated not just through visual means (Hayward in Hodges 1998). Whereas the keyboard is a passive mechanical channel between the computer and user, haptics enables a more active exploration, is programmable according to the type of data or object to be manipulated, and allows the user not just to see three dimensional shapes on the screen visually but also to feel them and mould them through the haptic interface.
iFeel mouse
The Logitech iFeel™ mouse (above)
Echoing Gibson’s (1968) distinction between passive and active touch, co-inventor of the PHANToM Kenneth Salisbury observes: “Unlike our other sensory modalities, haptics relies on action to stimulate perception… to sense the shape of a cup we do not take a simple tactile snapshot and go away and think about what we felt. Rather, we grasp and manipulate the object, running our fingers across its shape and surfaces in order to build a mental image of a cup” (in Hodges 1998). This is as true in the virtual world as in the real world, and so to get a true sense of touch in a virtual world through a haptic interface, the manipulation of the object must occur over time, in a synthetic world still with spatial and sensory continuity, so that tactile memory flows over time to build up a complex dynamic haptic image of the object under examination. This is easiest when the haptic is collocated with the visual and the auditory, so that interactions confirm each other for the user.
PHanToM interface
The SensAble PHANToM haptic device at BT Labs with the ‘thimble-gimbal’ (above)
This convergence is one that enables an augmentation for the user of the interface not just in the purely tactile realm but as a set of augmentations that begins to play with an emerging multisensory realm, one that talks often of ‘immersion’. This story is not therefore a straightforward history of tactile technologies, but an ‘archaeology’ (pace Foucault, especially 1994) of how the concept of multisensory immersion becomes an issue and begins to become explicitly articulated in the language.
It is some measure of the recent importance of haptic technologies that they are being incorporated into the hardware and software architectures of videogame consoles, perhaps the cheapest and most accessible forms of technological immersion currently available.
Foucault M (1994) The Order Of Things: An Archaeology Of The Human Sciences (Vintage: New York)

Hodges M (1998) ‘It Just Feels Right’ in Computer Graphics World, Vol. 21, No. 10
Mahoney D P (2000) ‘Innovative interfaces’ inComputer Graphics World, Vol. 23, No. 2
Paterson, M. (2006) ‘Feel the Presence: The Technologies of Touch’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24(5), pp. 691-708
Paterson, M. (2010) ‘Electric snakes and mechanical ladders? Social presence, domestic spaces, and human-robot interactions’ in Schillmeier and Domenech (Eds).,New Technologies and Emerging Spaces of Care. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Salisbury K (1995) ‘Haptics: The Technology of Touch’ at

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