[ISEA98] Panel: Claudia Benthien – Tactile Interfaces and Bodily Communication: The Rhetorics of Touch in Virtual Reality

Panel Statement

Panel: Bio-Architectures, Virtual Cities: The Revolutionary Human-Machine Community

An integration of the so-called ‘lower’ senses into virtual reality is presently thought of to be essential: only they are able to grant an authentic feeling of space, atmosphere and ‘real’ presence. Similarly to the theory of perception from the Renaissance to the 18th century seeing and hearing are imagined as possibly deceivable whereas the tactile is able to experience `reality’. This paper will analyze and historicize conceptualisations of tactility and the skin in the aesthetics of cyberspace. How is bodily contact imagined? What kind of (phantasmatic) body images are involved? Can subjectivity and individuality remain constitutive, if this new concept of touch is implicitly based on the idea of verbal communication, with a limited code and a linear sender-response scheme? In how far does a new partialization of the body take place, if certain parts of the skin are covered with ‘touch suits’ whereas others are left out completely? The hidden metaphorics of a ‘real’ contact, which is so often analogized with the medium of touch, will be central to my argument. Theorists like Derrick de Kerckhove and VR artists such as Stelarc will be discussed.

  • Claudia Benthien (Germany),¬†Humbolt-Universit√§t, Berlin