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Recreating Touch in Online Spaces: Unleashing the Power of Connection


Introduction

Welcome to our blog! Today, we are thrilled to explore the groundbreaking world of recreating touch-like sensations in online or remote settings. My name is Greta Gauhe, and as part of my practice-based PhD project, I have delved into the realm of Community dance and somatic practices to develop methods that bridge the gap between physical touch and virtual spaces. Join me as we uncover the transformative power of touch and its implications for our digital interactions.

The Changing Landscape

In recent times, our ways of connecting and engaging with one another have undergone profound transformations. Factors such as the #MeToo movement and technological advancements have reshaped our relationship with touch. Additionally, the global COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a shift towards remote and online practices, becoming the new norm in our daily interactions.

Understanding the Importance of Touch

Touch is not just a physical act; it plays a vital role in human development, well-being, and social connections. Through touch, we establish and strengthen bonds, express emotions, and communicate comfort and support. Research has shown that touch has the power to calm our nervous systems, reduce stress, and promote feelings of safety and trust. However, the transition to remote and online practices has posed unique challenges for fields that traditionally rely on physical touch and proximity, such as dance. The inability to engage in direct physical contact has raised questions about how we can recreate the intimate and sensorial experiences that touch provides.

The Aim of My Research

The focus of my research is to enhance participant experiences and increase accessibility by recreating the sensation of touch in remote or online settings. To achieve this, I delve into the realm of digital and physically-distanced practices, seeking innovative approaches that bridge the gap between physical touch and virtual spaces.

Reimagining Touch: A Transformative and Relational Process

When discussing touch-like sensations, I embrace a comprehensive understanding that goes beyond the physical act. Drawing inspiration from philosopher Erin Manning, I consider touch as a transformative and relational process rooted in the concept of prehension. Manning suggests that touch involves bodies engaging in an ongoing process of attunement even before physical contact occurs. This process encompasses sensing each other's presence, responding to movements, energies, and rhythms. Through this attunement, bodies become open to one another, forming a mutual and generative relationship grounded in movement and sensation. By adopting this broader perspective, I strive to recreate touch-like sensations in online or remote settings, emphasizing the interconnected nature of touch that extends beyond mere physical sensations.

Insights from My Research

Throughout the first year of my PhD, I conducted two studies that shed light on the transformative power of touch in online spaces. Let's explore some of the key findings:

  1. Systematic Literature Review: I examined how touch-based fields successfully adapted their in-person methods to suit the online format. The review uncovered diverse approaches that bridge the gap between in-person and online interactions, providing valuable insights into touch-based practices online.

  2. Expert Interview Study: I had the privilege of engaging with experienced artists from various fields who successfully recreated multi-sensory works for the digital domain. Their approaches, methods, and considerations offer valuable inspiration for my research, highlighting the advantages of online multi-sensory works, challenges faced, and unique working methods that overcome these challenges.

Implications and Future Directions The findings of my research open up exciting possibilities for potential applications and future research directions. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Increased Accessibility: Recreating touch-like sensations online provides opportunities for individuals who cannot or choose not to engage in close physical contact due to various reasons. It promotes inclusion, participation, and a sense of belonging, ensuring that everyone can engage in meaningful and transformative experiences.

  2. Expanding Creative Expression: The advancement of technology and increasing digitalization of our lives have expanded the possibilities for creative expression and interaction. Developing practical working methods that recreate touch-like sensations online opens new avenues for artistic exploration, therapeutic interventions, and educational experiences.

  3. Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration: The methods and approaches shared by artists in the expert interviews can inspire collaboration and knowledge exchange between fields. These methods may have relevance and transferability to other touch-based fields, such as manual therapy, offering solutions for delivering remote sessions and enhancing patient experiences.

Conclusion

Recreating touch-like sensations in online spaces is a groundbreaking area of research with immense potential. By exploring innovative methods and leveraging interdisciplinary expertise, we can enhance online experiences, cultivate meaningful connections, and unlock the power of touch in the digital landscape. Through my practice-based PhD, I am dedicated to co-creating and refining practical strategies that successfully recreate touch-like experiences in the online realm, paving the way for a more inclusive and accessible future. Thank you for joining me on this exciting journey of discovery. Stay tuned for more insights and updates as we continue to explore the possibilities of recreating touch in online spaces.

Picture by Rui Cunha



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