Haptics, Creativity, and Knowledge Between Bodies
Mark Paterson

How is haptics involved in knowledge creation? What knowledge is produced in reconceptualizing touch through other means? There is a humanist privileging of a certain kind of knowledge gained directly through the hands in craftsmanship, painting, and skillful training. Some see this as partially translating into digital craftsmanship and computer-aided design. The engineering of force feedback (haptics) involves hands, muscles, and skin in active engagement with digital sensation for the purposes of the design of objects and textiles, then, but also for more wholly embodied entertainment and performance experiences. Videogame controllers buzz in our hands, while haptic bodysuits stimulate hands and other body parts for fun or art. Scientific processes of sensory mapping, the engineering of the interface, electrical and electronic entertainments, and the use of the body in performance each in their own way involve a creative approach to knowledge production: creative arrangements of the senses, translations between modalities, a realm of experimentation in the service of knowing more about bodies, senses, and space – what Michel Serres describes as a ‘mingling’ of the senses. Increasingly, social science understands the importance of such sensory knowledge production, and involves its own creative methodologies and approaches when it comes to bodies and their boundaries. The day will consist of talks and demonstrations around touch, haptics, and performance.

Kate Elswit, Anna Harris, Carey Jewitt, David Parisi, Stahl Stenslie.

Mark Paterson is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. He is interested in approaches to the body and the senses, including the constructions of ‘blindness’, and technologies of touch and sensory substitution. He has conducted funded research in areas such as the use of haptic technologies within museums, and on the mixed spaces of human-robotic interaction (HRI). He is the author of The Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects and Technologies (2007), co-editor of Touching Place, Spacing Touch (with Martin Dodge, 2012), and most recently of Seeing with the Hands: Blindness, Vision and Touch After Descartes (2016). With David Parisi and Jason Archer he is co-editor of a recent special issue of New Media and Society on ‘Haptic Media Studies’ (2017). His current book project is How We Became Sensory-Motor: Mapping Movement and Modernity. His research blog is at www.sensory-motor.com.