Materializing Digital Futures: Touch, Movement, Sound and Vision

PDF Materializing Digital Futures: Touch, Movement, Sound and Vision February 24, 2022

Book author
  1. Jordan Beth Vincent
  2. Toija Cinque
150136125201 SCLZZZZZZZ SX500

Digital, visual media are found in most aspects of everyday life, from workplaces to household devices - computer and digital television screens, appliances such as refrigerators and home assistants, and applications for social media and gaming. Each technologically enabled opportunity brings an increasingly sophisticated language with the act of pursuing the intrasensorial ways of perceiving the world around us - through touch, movement, sound and vision - that is the heart of screen media use and audience engagement with digital artifacts. Drawing on digital media's currently evolving transformation and transforming capacity this book builds a story of the multiple processes in robotics and AI, virtual reality, creative image and sound production, the representation of data and creative practice. Issues around commodification, identity, identification, and political economy are critically examined for the emerging and affecting encounters and perceptions that are brought to bear.


We wish to thank the authors for their valuable contributions, the industry participants for their expertise and our many thanks also to those that have read and reviewed versions of this book for their considered and detailed feedback. Your time is greatly appreciated and the chapters stronger for them. A final heartfelt word of thanks to Katie Gallof at Bloomsbury for their ongoing support.


Visual media with growing affordances using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are found in most aspects of everyday life in workplaces and on household devices – computer and digital television screens, appliances such as refrigerators and home assistants, applications for social media and gaming. These affordances are facilitated by touch surfaces such as iPads and iPhones, which are increasingly ubiquitous in an evolving global technological climate. Personal and industrial data collection, data sharing and increased self-tracking practices using social media applications on mobile screen devices that are linked to wearable devices or recorded data from ingestible sensors are key parts of this (Klauser and Albrechtslund, 2014). Today, small mobile screens, enabled by computer networks and various networked digital technologies, make it possible for individuals, corporations and governments to accumulate, curate and distribute personal data on an unprecedented scale (see Pantzar and Ruckenstein, 2015; Reigeluth, 2014; Sonricker Hansen et al., 2012). The advent of ‘big data’ (and small data) technologies and the reach of social media have inexorably altered the boundaries between private and public life, and profoundly altered our sense of self (Whooley et al., 2014; Williamson, 2015). This book considers how the former techniques of connection to community in cultural and leisure activities are reconfigured (Acquisti and Gross, 2006) through this changing landscape of digital media visibility, data agglomerations and personal engagement with an empirical digital self. In this evolving context, we find new virtual worlds forming.

Each technologically enabled opportunity brings an increasingly sophisticated visual language with the act of pursuing the intra-sensorial ways of perceiving the world around us – through touch, movement, sound and vision – that is the heart of screen media use and audience engagement with unfolding, refolding, ever-changing digital artefacts. In this context, haptic sense (touch) and sound are accorded equal importance together with the visual. Emphasis is placed on all the senses that play important roles because they work together and afford thinking beyond a single image, a single sound, a single touch, a single movement, to imagine or do something else that positions us in the middle of a screen media revolution. It is also true that our digital artifacts are embedded in wider and constantly shifting ecosystems such that they become increasingly editable, interactive, reprogrammable, and distributable. This state of flux and constant transfiguration renders the value and utility of these artifacts contingent on shifting webs of functional relations with other artifacts across specific contexts and organizations. (Kallinikos et al., 2013: 357)

Found in the work of Kallinikos et al. (2013) is the convincing position that sociocultural technological developments have evolved through iterative processes affording numerous opportunities for construal and interpretation – a ‘media manifold’ expanding media environment (Couldry, 2011: 220). The premise connects to this book’s overarching contention for a new perception of intra-communication in the everyday whereby digital media use emerges and meaning materializes from within various and complex sociocultural relationships and not outside of it (see Barad, 2003). We seek in this anthology to explore the forms, infrastructures and various relationships through situated critical analyses of the production, circulation and use of digital devices, screen and sound media, and systems, and suggest a teleological orientation in our contemporary sociocultural lives.

This book uses the term ‘materialize’ with reference to unfolding, connecting and immersive digital media. The word has the same provenance as ‘mediatization’ and is situated in the context of ongoing vibrant mediation (Hepp, 2013). For its part, an understanding of ‘visual networking’ is useful in this context for underscoring the expressed pleasurable and functional activities across social, cultural and technical environments – including our social networks and other interpersonal communication at the level of the individual, as well as more broadly in ‘smart homes’, the management of transport, ‘smartgrids’ for power, e-government and the like (Cinque, 2015). This conceptual background is important for unpacking the future of emerging digital technologies in a book of this nature where visual and visually spectacular technology is being investigated.

What the authors of this anthology do not do, however, is score the various digital media as the focal point in a way that supplants the individual. We are looking for something more meaningful with the intent to go further than to simply describe a technological system in favour of encapsulating the range of personal (human) elements that largely drives us – the perceptual senses. The authors in this anthology critically consider our sensory motivations and consequent interaction with various technologies and the choices that lie behind them. This is done with regard to how our haptic senses move us (hearing, seeing, touching), driven by active individual agency, when engaging with interconnected digital technologies across a range of everchanging platforms. The notion of individual agency in this context refers particularly to the ability of people, individually and collectively, to influence their own lives as well as the society and environment in which they live. This book’s motivation is not to simply classify any group of technologies but rather to engage meaningfully with what we are doing with them in contemporary settings. The capacity to build upon and systematically pursue the momentum of digital media studies to further address the important questions of the significance and value of sensory-based human–computer interactions (HCI) in contemporary society will allow for the development of robust conversations on ways forward.

Our approach is to first introduce interested readers to the underpinnings of a swiftly materializing digital future, which is now so ubiquitous that we take it for granted. By way of concentrating research debate and critical analysis around the concept of digital media artefacts and human identity formation, this book will circumnavigate the significant implications of living in a contemporary information-based society. Towards this critical exploration of ‘the human’ in and outside the digital environment, the intention of this research is to delve into questions of whether immersive technologies have been overestimated as consumer gadgets or entertainment media. We consider the future of exhibition practices pertaining to the promises attached to ‘full immersion’ via mixed AR and VR and the extent to which they have created tensions between the technologies and physical spaces of exhibitions, museums, education institutions and the like. In this context is the further question of how the spaces between all-digital artworks and all-physical exhibition and learning spaces might be negotiated now and in the future. Will the design, marketing and use of digital applications and platforms determine the ways in which the offline and online [digital] self is formed? A key point of difference in this book, as compared to other texts in the field, is that it also looks at the practical application of digital futures within an industry context. We capture how key industry players are rapidly adjusting in important ways as they address change, and hear their voices and opinions as theory moves to application in commercial and industry contexts.

This book discusses the actualities and imaginaries of emerging digital technologies and aims its searchlight at their impact on society, finding important connections between the digital and the material. The book is driven to unearth and present theoretically innovative understandings of the various sociocultural implications of emerging digital technologies for individuals in their social lives. The authors in this volume present new concepts that reorient thinking towards an ontology of digital identities, not least where media and technologies are progressively demonstrating ‘signs of embodiment’ and ‘emotional understanding’ (McStay, 2018). Our goal in this book is to afford readers a strong foundation from which to facilitate critical engagement across non-binary perspectives with reference to utopian, functionalist and dystopic visions of digital futures. This book is an edited collection of sixteen original chapters that consider multiple aspects of digital media, data cultures, art platforms, and exhibition and performance spaces. The authors assembled here are positioned at the intersection of Digital Media Studies, Science and Technology Studies, Film and Television Studies, Creative Industries and Data Cultures, but uniquely and importantly drawing as well from the fields of Dance Research and Performance Studies and Arts and Cultural Management with relevance to Mediated Intelligence in Design and Architecture. Their academic background allows each of the authors to approach the question of how the future is materializing in digital forms from a range of critical entry points. The anthology is organized into four sections with four chapters per section. Each section has a detailed introduction to set the intellectual parameters for the selected chapters therein. Each chapter will assess an aspect of the section’s core theme to present the reader with the key terms and concepts, dilemmas and issues that are central to a critical understanding of digital media now​
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