David Parisi – Archaeologies of Touch, Interfacing with Haptics from Electricity to Computing


University of Minnesota Press, ISBN-13: 978-1-5179-0059-5, English, 472 pages, 2018, USA

Our senses have been through the most drastic redefinition of their functioning since the introduction of electricity. Touch, indeed, has an historical fame of being excluded from the early phases of this redefinition (which has continued through further phases, namely induced by electronics, networks and mobile media). Parisi proves it wrong, contesting the ‘novelty’ of haptics, especially after their global use in smartphones, with some profound research. This is focused mainly on the creation of objects and machines, creating a lineage of ideas and techniques about touch progressing over three centuries. Here we can learn and observe, through a number of unique documentary pictures, the series of attempts to transform touch through technology, and its accompanying enthusiasms and failures. One chapter is particularly insightful: in “Tongue of the Skin” the authors talks about the historical attempts to train people to communicate through touch using patterns and symbols. Which has been sublimated when touch has been called into action as the ultimate involved sense in digital interfaces. His enquiry into Apple Watch’s Taptic Engine, for example, reflects the current industrial flattening “black-boxed” standardisation of touch measurement. This is a remarkable book, solidly documented and will potentially enlighten a vast number of people working with cultural and social technologies.