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Accepted Paper:

Touch in the age of digitalization. Historical and sociological perspectives  
Heiko Stoff (Medical School Hannover) Diego Compagna (University of Applied Sciences - Munich)

Long abstract:

Even though digitalization has shifted many social processes and interactions to a virtual level, physical "social" contact retains a peculiar significance. Sociologically (i.e. in terms of social theory), interaction is primarily communication. As a rule, this occurs without any haptic-based contact at all. However, it is undisputed that "social" touch plays an important role as a very specific form of haptics.

Various trends can be observed that realize or address haptic experiences in digital interaction spaces. With advancing developments in VR and AR, interest is growing in technologies that can simulate tactile experiences in order to create more immersive experiences. However, even before VR and AR, digitalization has led to the development of haptic technologies, such as haptic feedback systems in smartphones and game consoles, which attempt to recreate the feeling of physical touch in digital environments. It is completely unclear whether there is a longing for real, physical contact and whether touch can serve as a counterbalance to virtual exchange and satisfy the need for "real" experiences.

The "digital transformation" has put "social touch" back on the agenda of sociological interaction research and theory. Can interaction as a social relationship do without forms of haptic-based contacts? Is the need for "social touch" increasing due to the increase of interactions in digital "touch-free" spaces? And where does social touch actually take place? In the virtual space ("figurative") or in the physical space of action of the human actor ("literal")?

Traditional Open Panel P112
Transformed social differentiation through digital transformation
  Session 1