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Haptic revolutions: sensory futures and phenomenologies of expertise in medical worlds 
Denisa Butnaru (University of Konstanz)
Taina Kinnunen (University of Oulu)
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Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

This panel is interested in exploring how technological transformations in medical worlds related to haptics advance sensory futures and challenge phenomenological practices of professionals.

Long Abstract:

Several works in science and technology studies (STS), among other disciplines, have recently addressed sensory transformations of medical practices. Touch, in particular, has been discussed being minimized in comparison with the role of visibility and vision (Lupton 2017). Following the development of robotics along with other digital technologies unprecedented “sensorial revolutions” (Allen-Collinson and Pavey 2014: 797) are of note, among which haptics. Whereas on the one hand such innovations are responsible for further possibilities of objectification of the body in the medical practice, on the other, they additionally introduce the redefinition of the role that touch has held until lately for professionals of care. Thus, sensory experiences that have detained a crucial role in medicine are being challenged by current media and technology cultures, as they define themselves to be transformative manners of “extracting presence” (Prentice 2013: 16) from the patient’s bodies. Simultaneously, they expand the sensitivity of the professionals who use them, contributing to shape further phenomenologies of expertise.

Consequentially, haptics seems to become a novel sensory battlefield upon which current “medical cosmologies” (Jewson 1976, Nettleton 2009) find new grounds. Initially defined by Nick Johnson some decades ago as “metaphysical attempts to circumscribe and define systematically the essential nature of the universe of medical discourse as a whole” (1976: 225), the category of “medical cosmology” offers a robust conceptual background to open the discussion on how sensory futures in medical worlds emerge and whether they respond to technosolutionism forms in the field of haptics.

The panel aims to stage explorations of sensory work following current practices of datafication and digitalization in medicine and healthcare. We are interested in exploring questions related to how the transformation of haptic expertise in medical worlds impacts professionals in these fields and transforms their phenomenological practices.

Accepted papers: