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"Price, Sara" <[log in to unmask]>
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Price, Sara
Wed, 9 Sep 2020 07:33:36 +0000
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Call for papers:
Special Issue of ToCHI on Digital Touch:
Reshaping interpersonal communicative capacity and social touch practices

Guest editors: Sara Price, Carey Jewitt, Nadia Bianchi-Berthouze, Jürgen Steimle

We are at a tipping point for digital communication: moving beyond ‘ways of seeing’ to include ‘ways of feeling’. Much as optical technologies transformed sight and the visual (e.g. from the telescope and microscope, the X-ray, photography, film, computer graphics, MRIs to Google Glass), the rapid expansion in digital touch technologies appears set to reconfigure touch and the tactile in significant ways. Advances in haptics, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and bio-sensor applications are positioned as re-shaping what and who can be touched, as well as when and how it/they can be touched, changing existing ways of knowing and interaction, leading to new forms of social communication and knowledge about the world.

Touch plays a vital role in human life, from forming and maintaining intimate social bonds, to the transmission of skills, and general well-being. These technical developments sit alongside social discourses of concern and loss, with the digital being associated with the removal of touch from the material sensory landscape, yet in our current climate of social distancing and disengaging with touch in our everyday interactions, the promise of the digital becomes increasingly appealing and relevant. In the context of ‘digital touch for communication’ touch embraces a relatively broad notion of ‘touching’: touching something with your hand/ body or being touched somewhere on your body, that constitutes a communicative act. With the use of digital technologies comes a fundamental shift in forms and modes of social ‘touch’ communication in co-located and remote interaction, between humans, humans and robots. Across a range of social contexts and technological domains, touch-based technologies promise to supplement, heighten, extend and reconfigure how people (and machines) communicate with one another, leading to new touch-based capacities and practices.

While this has significant implications for enhancing and enabling touch communicative modes of interaction, it also raises many questions around the possible impact on everyday social touch practices, cultural norms, ways of knowing and power relations. The breadth and interdisciplinary interest in this growing field - across designers, artists, computer scientists, engineers, psychologists and social scientists, with interests in robotics and touch, affective computing, social implications of touch, wearables, and digital installations – brings attention to the growing need to understand the changing role of these touch practices in digital communication, particularly in the context of interpersonal relationships, and our related health and wellbeing; to examine future scenarios and engagement with emergent digital designs through rigorous studies with prototypes; and importantly, to reframe current methodological, technological and design practices to explore questions that go beyond immediate sensations or psychological responses to consider wider socio-cultural practices.

Given this landscape, this special issue addresses timely and important questions that arise around the design of innovative techniques for eliciting and sensing digital touch, such as bio-sensing, on-skin technologies, haptics, wearables and VR. It provides a forum to examine the kinds of touch sensations that can be created, and ask when these can usefully mimic physical touch or generate new ways of touching; to explore ways in which innovative technologies change how we might think about touch (e.g. how does biosensing, that acts as a mediator between body and environment or newly makes touch visible or audible, change what we consider touch to be) and the implications of this for communication and communicative practices. The special issue aims to examine interpersonal remote and co-located communication, and health and well-being applications of digital touch technologies, particularly reflecting on the subsequent implications for touch practices (e.g. understanding new social protocols in adaptation or adoption of touch technology); understanding the role of touch practices in personal communication (e.g. how can digital touch move beyond the transmission concept of communication?) and in the emerging human-artificial agent interactions; examining future scenarios and engagement with emergent designs that give rise to social questions, such as privacy (e.g. how would you know if your tactile communication was hacked?), and ethical concerns (e.g. what is ‘good’ touch? Who is touching whom and in what ways? How should an artificial agent interpret touch? Or touch us?) including issues of consent in engaging the body in touch experiences; as well as methodological, technological and design practices that integrate wider socio-cultural concerns.

Possible topics include:

  *   Innovative digital touch communication applications for interpersonal relationships, e.g. virtual touch, robotic touch;
  *   New technologies (e.g., sensing, haptic output) for digital touch communication;
  *   Interfaces for digital touch communication (e.g., on-skin interfaces, wearable interfaces);
  *   Touch in virtual reality and tactile augmented reality
  *   Character and features of social touch in the interpersonal digital communication landscape;
  *   Changing social touch practices, and norms through digital communication;
  *   Gender, technology and social communicative touch;
  *   Human-robot touch interaction;
  *   Touching and being touched by artificial agents;
  *   Interdisciplinary based empirical work (user studies) on interpersonal digital touch communication;
  *   Methodological frameworks for investigating digital touch communication;
  *   Ethical issues of digital interpersonal communication and touch interaction (e.g. privacy);
  *   Speculative papers that reflect on imaginary futures of social digital touch communication.

Important dates:

January 5th: full paper submission
January 22nd: Papers in review and early decisions.

March 22nd: First round reviews to authors

May 24th:  revised paper submitted

May 30th: Second round of review (where needed)

July 30th: Final decision

August 31st: final submission of revised papers

All contributions will be peer reviewed and uphold the rigorous, high-standards of TOCHI.

Further information, including TOCHI submission procedures and advice on formatting and preparing your manuscript, can be found at:

Manuscripts are submitted via the ACM online manuscript system at:<>

Queries can be sent to the Guest Editors at digitaltouchHCI [at]

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