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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Haptic Media: Sexuality, Gender, and Affect in Technology Culture, 1959–2015

  • Author(s): Pozo, Diana Mari
  • Advisor(s): Everett, Anna
  • et al.

The rise of haptic technologies in the media industries—from touchscreens that touch back, to vibrating videogame controllers and moving and vibrating cinema seat technologies—is just one indication of how contemporary social, news, and entertainment media increasingly engage their audiences through touch, embodiment, and affect. Media scholars have theorized film spectatorship as haptic, or have studied haptic technologies and human computer interaction at the site of the interface. This project proposes a theory of haptic media that combines multiple definitions of the sense of touch into a framework for understanding fantasies of immersive media, based on studies of sexuality, embodiment, and affect in North American technology culture, beginning in the mid-20th century. Using examples from queer videogame culture, cinema seating technologies from The Tingler (dir. William Castle, 1959) to D-BOX, and the relationship of virtual reality systems to fantasies of “teledildonic” virtual sexuality, Haptic Media argues that the field of fantasy-laden media technology development long associated with the “new” could productively be re-framed in terms of the “haptic.” This shift from new media to haptic media centers marginalized bodies in media politics, an approach with broad relevance across the fields of film theory, feminist media studies, videogame studies, queer theory, media history/historiography, fan studies, and the history and philosophy of science.

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