Touching the Screen

How do current practices of physically touching screens transform our relationship to media technologies and their images? Bringing together an interdisciplinary group of renowned scholars and artists, the one-day conference Touching the Screen aims to trace the genealogies and implications of today’s touchscreens and their formatting of images and the senses. Register below!

Photo: Still from Michael Bell Smith, Magic Hands, 2012. HD video with sound. Courtesy of the artist

As touchscreens and haptic interfaces are becoming ubiquitous in everyday life, our sensory engagement with media technologies changes. Most obviously, the sense of touch is coordinated with vision in new ways. This in turn has consequences for our embodied relation to media, in particular to their screens and images.

As witnessed in recent film and video art, artists have begun to explore some of the novel exchanges between the sensing body and images that touchscreens afford: tactility and gestures, textures and surfaces, and the curious tension between the screen-image as responsive plane versus its qualities of depth are some of the key themes that emerge.

In art, film and media theory, visual and linguistic paradigms are currently being supplemented by theorization of embodied media experience centered on sense perceptions other than the purely visual, with touch featuring prominently. For example, whereas touchscreens are underpinned by a tradition of psychophysiological research on touch that reaches back to the mid-nineteenth century, this tradition is only recently being thoroughly explored.

Within philosophy, the question of the status of touch in the hierarchy of the senses and as epistemological tool can be traced back to Aristotle’s De Anima, but gains new urgency today as touch gets formatted and patented by haptic interfaces.

For images, touching the screen with specified gestures accentuates how the (digital) image is perhaps better conceived of as data or code: tapping an icon becomes an act of information processing. In short, practices of touching the screen raise fundamental questions for a number of established conceptions of how we relate to media. 

Touching the Screen will explore media archaeological, media theoretical and artistic ramifications of current practices of screen touching, and the potentially new bodily and epistemological configurations brought on by these.

Please note: the conference is open to all interested, but participation requires registration. The conference fee of NOK 130 covers lunch and beverages. Registration closes on April 23, or when the event is fully booked.

Registration and payment

Program folder with abstracts

Published Feb. 24, 2015 3:58 PM - Last modified Apr. 21, 2015 11:11 AM