A functional framework for multisensory and interactive mediated social touch experiences

Research output: Contribution to book/conference proceedings/anthology/reportConference contributionInvited


In an increasingly digital world, for work, education or entertainment, we are spending more time interacting with others through screens. These social interactions are therefore typically limited to audiovisual sensory content and devoid of touch. A recent manifesto has suggested that mediated social touch is in a moment of crisis. The authors call for renewed efforts to create technologies that better capture both the social and sensory aspects of social touch and to determine when to use them. We suggest that current conceptualisations and indeed existing technology generally focus on only one functional aspect of social touch namely that of copresence, with haptic devices producing short, vibrotactile stimuli. And yet, thanks to a rich body of electrophysiological and cognitive neuroscience research it is now well established that social affective touch is an interactive multimodal experience tuned and perhaps dominated by top-down modulation. By discussing the many functions that social touch plays from facilitating feelings of connectedness to promoting trust, we put forward the positive proposal that we need to avoid the "replication"red herring and instead look for new ways to create the feeling of touch for our digital interactions. Specifically, we detail how multisensory approaches as well as enhancing the interactive nature of the touch experience would improve mediated touch technologies. Importantly, we stress that these novel approaches could be used to not only further empirical research into the complexity of what makes social touch so special but also improve our experiences of the social digital world.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIMXw '23: Proceedings of the 2023 ACM International Conference on Interactive Media Experiences Workshops
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM), New York
Number of pages6
ISBN (electronic)979-8-4007-0845-9
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2023

Publication series

SeriesIMX: Interactive Media Experiences

External IDs

ORCID /0000-0001-6540-5891/work/150883486
Scopus 85182012836