Re/Touch: Inspiring touch-related interaction design

Do Not Touch by Sameer D'Costa

One of the things that social and cultural research on touch attempts to grapple with is everything people are supposed to touch and not supposed to touch—and what we actually end up touching or not touching in any given situation. When I first saw Sameer D’Costa’s photo on Flickr, it reminded me of people’s desire to touch things that we aren’t supposed to, and I wondered what that might mean in terms of research.

A year later we’re excited to share the result of that wondering: re/touch, an online resource for designers and researchers interested in touch-based interactions and relations. As the action of touch is technologically mediated by both contactless interactions in the world and through multi-touch on screen, awareness and reflection on the richness of touch is becoming increasingly important.

The re/touch website

re/touch brings together hundreds of cross-cultural examples of social norms and values involving touch—all categorised according to actions related to touching.

Tag cloud

A collection of quotes from ethnographic accounts written between the late 1800s and the present, re/touch encourages designers and researchers to explore how touch is used by people to relate to one another and the worlds in which we live.

Sample quote

You can browse the quotes to create design briefs, refine interaction scenarios or otherwise inspire you to think, make or do things touch-related.

About the project

We like to think of re/touch as a work-in-progress. So far, it contains almost five hundred quotes from dozens of cultural groups around the world, and we’re working to add more. As the collection grows, we expect the action tags to change as well, so over the next couple of months you may notice different words in the tag cloud. In the end, we anticipate having over one thousand quotes and more than fifty categories of touch-related action.

The re/touch website also includes some background information on the content, and we plan to publish a paper on the research methodology and some thoughts on collaborations between anthropology and design.

If you notice any database problems or errors, please leave a comment below and we’ll look into it. We’re also still working on the web design—including making the site work well and look good on the iPhone—so we’d certainly appreciate any feedback you might have along those lines as well.

Ultimately, we hope you’ll find this resource as interesting and inspiring as we do!

Related things:

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  2. Touch as culture This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating. Anne Galloway is a social researcher working at the intersections of technology, space and culture. Anne’s research in the......
  3. Touch as interaction medium This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating. In London, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and elsewhere the ‘swipe’ or ‘tap’ is already a common interaction for paying......
  4. Touch design briefs The Touch project has been investigating applications and services for RFID and NFC since 2005. Although RFID and NFC have been much hyped, the technologies have been relatively little explored from a design perspective.......
  5. Touch project Touch is a research project at the Interaction Design department at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Touch takes a user-centred approach to Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC is a technology that enables......

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