“It’s so touching”: Emotional Value in Distal Contact
Charles Lenay


How can interpersonal « contacts » allow for a « touching » relationship at a distance? To answer this question, we try to understand the reasons for the pre-eminence of the tactile modality in descriptions of emotional exchanges. With the help of an original experimental setup, we will propose a description of the essential conditions for “contact” mediated by technical devices. Next, in order to understand the relationship between such contact and emotional values, we will construe emotion as being the product of a force that instigates movement. We will then show that the “force” which is transmitted in touching contacts is based in the duality of the perceiving body and the body image. The fact that the subject is ignorant of his own body-image is revealed by the breaking of perceptual symmetry on the occasion of a touching encounter. These results provide some guiding principles for the design of interfaces and structures of interaction that allow for emotional contacts across networks.

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