more than human touch: workshop

material encounters: a workshop on more than human touch

This is a British Academy funded Workshop around robotics and care organized by Amelia DeFalco (Medical Humanities, University of Leeds) and Aimee van Wynsberghe (Robot Ethics, Delft University, Foundation for Responsible Robotics). They asked me to speak, and my paper will be “Sensational Interactions with ‘Sociable Robots’: Sensors, Surveillance, and Spaces”. Here is their rationale:

Human animals are made by, through, and for touch. Biological research demonstrates that humans, like most mammals, enter the world as relational, interdependent beings, entirely reliant on touch for survival and communication. As a result, touch is a prime site of meaning making, vulnerability and power. Though we may be born seeking contact and interaction through touch, cultural and socio-political forces are powerful determinants of how particular bodies experience touch, mitigating or accentuating the vulnerability of this most fundamental human sense.

This workshop will explore the biomechanics, politics, ethics and aesthetics of haptic encounters between human/machine/animal bodies. How and why does tactile contact between human animals and nonhuman matter? Through presentations and extended discussion, we will consider this question in its multiplicity, attending to both the material “matter” of touch, and its socio-political significance — why touch matters, so to speak.


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