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.

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 21, or when the event is fully booked.


  • Michael Bell-Smith (New York)
  • Mika Elo (Helsinki)
  • Victoria Fu (Los Angeles/San Diego)
  • David Parisi (Charleston)
  • Wanda Strauven (Amsterdam)
  • Susanne M. Winterling (Berlin/Oslo)


Detailed program will be posted here shortly.


Michael Bell-Smith is an artist based in Brooklyn, NY. In his work he takes familiar visual elements – from corporate design, advertising and games among other places – and positions them within unexpected conceptual frameworks. Tracing the circulation and proliferation of images and sounds, his work wryly reflects on the aftereffects of our present cultural moment. His work has been exhibited and screened internationally. He is an Assistant Professor of New Media at Purchase College, Purchase, NY.


Mika Elo is professor of artistic research at the University of the Arts Helsinki. His research interests include theory of photographic media, philosophical media theory, and artistic research. He is participating in discussions in these areas in the capacity of curator, visual artist and researcher. In 2009-2011 he worked in the research project ( In 2012-2013 he co-curated the Finnish exhibition Falling Trees at the Biennale Arte 2013 in Venice.


Victoria Fu received her BA from Stanford University, MA in Art History/Museum Studies from USC, and MFA from CalArts. Her installations have been recently exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; 52nd New York Film Festival; Simon Preston Gallery in New York; IX Nicaragua Biennial; University Art Gallery at UC Irvine; The Contemporary in Baltimore; among others. She attended the Whitney Independent Study Program and was a resident artist at Skowhegan in 2006, and is a 2013-14 grantee of the Art Matters Foundation. She lives and works in Los Angeles and San Diego, where she is Assistant Professor of Visual Arts at the University of San Diego.


David Parisi (PhD, NYU, Media, Culture, and Communication) is an Assistant Professor in Emerging Media at the College of Charleston (US).  His research investigates the genealogy of contemporary touch-based digital media interfaces, linking their development to the histories of electricity, psychology, aesthetics, cybernetics, and robotics.  Parisi’s recent and forthcoming publications include Touch Machines: An Archaeology of Haptic Interfacing (forthcoming), “A Technics of Media Touch: Kinesthetic Displays and the Quest to Engineer Computer Haptics” (forthcoming), “A Counterrevolution in the Hands: The Console Controller as an Ergonomic Branding Mechanism” (2015), “Reach In and feel Something: On the Strategic Reconstruction of Touch in Virtual Space” (2014),  “Shocking Grasps: An Archaeology of Electrotactile Game Mechanics” (2013), “When Screen Touch Back” (2012), and “Tactile Modernity: On the Rationalization of Touch in the Nineteenth Century


Wanda Strauven is affiliate associate professor at the University of Amsterdam. Currently, she is visiting professor at Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan and Goethe University Frankfurt. Her research interests include early and avant-garde cinema, media archaeology, the history of tactile media and children’s creative interaction with media. She is the author of Marinetti e il cinema (Udine: Campanotto, 2006). She (co-)edited Mind the Screen (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2008), The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006) and Homo Orthopedicus (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2001).


Susanne M Winterling is an artist currently living and working in Oslo and Berlin. She holds a MA in philosophy, is one of the founders of the art collective Akademie Isotrope, and is a professor of contemporary art at Oslo National Academy of the Arts since 2011. Most recent exhibitions include nature after nature Fridericianum, Kassel, 2014, Drift at Gallerie Parrotta Contemporary Art, Stuttgart, and The Lulennial: A Slight Gesturay, Mexico City, 2015. Working across a variety of media, including film and photography, Winterling is mostly known for site-specific installations that critically intervene in their surroundings through directing attention to the sensual and perceptual qualities of spaces, objects and images.


Published Mar. 25, 2015 1:59 PM - Last modified Apr. 22, 2020 12:52 PM