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Digital finger: beyond phenomenological figures of touch

Author(s): Mika Elo

Journal: Journal of Aesthetics & Culture
ISSN 2000-4214

Volume: 4;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Aristotle | Edmund Husserl | Jacques Derrida | digitality | interface design | touch

Mika Elo is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in visual culture at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture (Aalto-ARTS), Helsinki. His research interests include theory of photographic media, philosophical media theory, and artistic research. He is participating in discussions in these areas in the capacity of curator, visual artist and researcher. He has published articles in Finnish, German, and English among others on Benjamin, Nancy, artistic research and photography theory. His doctoral thesis Valokuvan medium [The Medium of Photography] was published in Finnish in 2005 (Tutkijaliitto, Helsinki). In 2009–2011 he worked in the Figures of Touch research project (, and since 2011 he is the director of Media Aesthetics research group at Aalto-ARTS, Department of Media.Author Biography The article reflects on digitality and interface design in terms of the multiple senses of touch. Touching is presented as a “pathic” sense of being exposed, which implies that touching exceeds the tactile and even the phenomenal world. A particular focus is set on Aristotle's and Husserl's ways of thematizing the sense of touch. In this way, two extremes of the phenomenological thinking of touching are articulated: touching as an indistinct and heterogeneous constituent of sensitivity and touching as the guarantor of immediacy of the sense experience. Referring to Derrida's critical notes concerning haptocentrism, the article attempts to problematize the hand and the finger as phenomenological figures of touch and as holds of haptic realism. The article concludes that insofar as digital interface design aims at haptic realism it conceives of the sense of touch in terms of narcissistic feedback and thus tends to conceal the pathic moment of touching.
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