Message posted on 20/01/2023

Call for Abstracts: Haptic Revolutions: Sensory Futures and Phenomenologies of Expertise/ Nordic STS, Oslo, June 7-9

Dear colleagues,

I am happy to invite you to send abstracts to the open panel: Haptic Revolutions: Sensory Futures and Phenomenologies of Expertise, at the Nordic STS Conference in Oslo, 7-9 June, organized by Taina Kinnunen (University of Oulu) and myself (University of Konstanz).

The deadline for submissions is: 1 March 2023. Abstracts (max. 250 words) should be submitted on the conference website:

Panel Description: Haptic Revolutions: Sensory Futures and Phenomenologies of Expertise

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 novel manners of “extracting presence” (Prentice 2013: 16) from the patient’s bodies. Simultaneously, they also actualize and 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), and as “ways of seeing but also ways of not seeing” (1976: 226) the category of “medical cosmology” offers a robust conceptual background to open the discussion on how sensory futures in medical worlds are challenged and redefined by technological revolutions in the field of haptics and how they become the sources of future phenomenologies of expertise.

This 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 “stocks of knowledge” (Schütz [2004] 1967) of professionals and transforms their phenomenological practices.

Some questions the panel seeks to address include:

What kind of medical knowledges about bodies do digitalized practices produce? How do digital proxemics with patients constitute medical expertise and its phenomenologies and working practices? What forms of technostress result from the necessity of rapidly learning new skills in digitalized medical worlds and what skill repertoires professionals of healthcare develop in order to respond to these challenges? What types of sensory assemblages define haptic medical expertise in contexts in which embodied artificial intelligence (robotics) is currently implemented? Finally, how do new forms of haptics question limits of medical interventions and how do they reinvent relational practices among professionals and their interlocutors?

Keywords: haptics, phenomenology of expertise, computing and media technology, digitalized medicine and healthcare, sensory working practices

Looking forward to reading your abstracts and hopefully listening to your papers!

Many best wishes,


-- PD Dr. Denisa Butnaru (Frau/Ms; sie/she)

Vertretungsprofessorin für Allgemeine Soziologie und Kultursoziologie Fachbereich Geschichte und Soziologie Fach 41 Universität Konstanz D-78457 Konstanz

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