This page contains interviews with sensory experts on touch during the COVID19 pandemic. It also includes an evolving bibliography of news media and academic articles on the same topic.
Have an academic article or news piece you think we should include? Let us know at email@example.com.
Merinda is an artist using performance, movement, installation and conversation to ask how we might reorient ourselves towards deeper care and intimacy. Her work is inspired by the environment, human and more-than-human social and ecological structures and the possibilities available to us in future imaginings. Her practice aims to find clarity and connection in the external world through deep listening, observation, and research into the emotional and physical states in our internal worlds.
She grew up in Bundjalung Country, Northern NSW, and is currently living and creating in Yugambeh Country, South East QLD. Merinda’s solo and collaborative work has most recently been commissioned by; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane & Blue Mountains Cultural Centre (Imprints, 2020/2021), Outerspace (Umwelt Collective: m0ther.online, 2020), The Walls (Take your pleasure seriously, 2020, MIAMI/MIAMI international residency), Placemakers* GC (Fully Automated Human Touch, 2020) and Gold Coast City Council (Conversations with the Forest, ongoing). You can read more about Merinda’s work, and the artworks mentioned in the interview at: www.merindadavies.com. You can also listen to the instructions for the “Imprints” artwork here:
Dr Agnes Arnold-Forster
Key articles – Collating expertise and key links on touch during the pandemic.
- Lost touch: how a year without hugs affects our mental health – Eleanor Morgan for The Guardian
A reflection on the impact of touch deprivation during lockdowns.
- Are You Ready to Be Touched? – Allison P. Davis for The Cut
Explores the desire for touch highlighted during the pandemic, and the fear and ambivalence of touching people post-vaccination.
- What does it mean to be ‘touch starved’? – Debra Rose Wilson for Medical News Today
Reflects on research on the negative impact of touch deprivation, referred to as “touch starvation”.
- Grandfather’s tears fuel research into tactile internet – ultra-low-latency tech that allows ‘virtual touching’ Kylie Knott for South China Morning Post.
An article that details attempts, in response to the pandemic, to develop touch at a distance via digital communication methods for social and medical applications.
- In Memoriam: The Handshake – Micah Hauser for The New Yorker.
An article predicting the social and cultural death of the handshake in the light of COVID19, with suggestions about some of the gestures that would replace it.
- Airport Students: Did Covid19 kill the handshake?
A number of high school students in Michigan respond to predictions of the death of the handshake, with many thinking it will return and others suggesting that new gestures – such as tapping each other on the foot – might replace it.
- The Coronavirus Killed the Handshake and the Hug. What Will Replace Them? – Mandy Oaklander for Time.
This piece suggests some of the difficulties that come with not being able to shake hands, including the need to verbalise social cues that we might otherwise signal through forms of touching.
- UK shoppers keen to return in-store after pandemic year of shopping online: study – Chloe Rigby for Internet Retailing.
An article drawing on consumer research which illustrates both a new caution about touch in retail environments but also a desire for touch-based experiences of products and brands.
- Touchlessness – an extract from Benjamin H. Bratton, The Revenge of the Real: Politics for a Post-Pandemic World (Verso, 2021).
This extract argues that rather than restricting touch, the pandemic has in fact re-inscribed an awareness of the importance of touching and attempts to calibrate appropriate levels of touch.
- The pandemic halted hugging. Can we ever embrace it again? – Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett for the Guardian.
A piece exploring how the pandemic has transformed our relationship with touch – including the suggestion that in the world of #MeToo the pandemic has given further ways of avoiding unwanted touch.
- Touch-free pedestrian crossings installed across South Ayrshire after Covid concerns – Abi Smillie for Daily Record, Ayrshire.
In response to fears about the spread of COVID via the buttons used on pedestrian crossings, one county council had touch-free triggers installed as a replacement.
- Touch Deprivation Post-Covid: A “Tsunami of Need” for Massage – Douglas Nelson for Massage Magazine.
This article illustrates how a lack of touch and a rise in anxiety and depression during the pandemic have contributed to a greater demand for massage treatments as countries have unlocked.
- The pandemic has taken away human touch, and here’s how it is affecting us – Hasina Khatib for Vogue India
A short piece that explores the health implications of touch-starvation during the pandemic and some ways of coping with it.
- It’s Time for Movies to Get Really, Really Horny Again – Sofia Andrade for Slate.
A piece which suggests that lack of intimacy – particularly touch – has resulted in a Cannes film festival in 2021 that is dominated by films with sex, bodies, and physical connection.
- No traces of coronavirus found in tests of railway stations and on trains – Neil Lancefield and Leah Sinclair.
A piece about work conducted in London underground and railway stations in which the most ‘touched’ areas of the environment were tested for the presence of COVID-19.
- How the Pandemic Changed How We Think About Touch – Katherine McLaughlin for Rewire.
A short piece considering how the pandemic has reshaped our relationship with touch. Includes reference to research that a lack of touch can foster aggression and recommendations we should all touch ourselves more.
- Duc Dau and Ann Gagné (2020). Touching the Untouchable: Connecting, Ethical Caring, and Teaching During COVID-19, MAI: Feminism & Visual Culture. https://maifeminism.com/touching-the-untouchable-connecting-ethical-caring-and-teaching-during-covid-19/
- Zhanjing Zeng, Po-Ju Chen and Alan A. Lew (2020). From high-touch to high-tech: COVID-19 drives robotics adoption, Tourism Geographies, 22:3, 724-734. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616688.2020.1762118
- Patricia A Thomas, Seoyoun Kim (2021). Lost Touch? Implications of Physical Touch for Physical Health, The Journals of Gerontology, 76(3): e111–e115. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbaa134.
- Ashley Watson, Deborah Lupton and Mike Michael (2021). Enacting intimacy and sociality at a distance in the COVID-19 crisis: the sociomaterialities of home-based communication technologies, Media International Australia, 178(1):136-150. https://doi.org/10.1177/1329878X20961568.
- Keith Kahn-Harris (2020). Beyond Sound and Vision, RSA Journal, 166(2), 38-40.
- Lisa May Thomas (2021). Reflections on bodies in lockdown: The Touch Diaries (2016) and The Lockdown Touch Diaries (2020), Multimodality and Society, 1(1), 88-96. https://doi.org/10.1177/2634979521992282
- Kate Elswit (2021). Reflections on bodies in lockdown: The coronasphere, Multimodality and Society, 1(1), 69-74. https://doi.org/10.1177/2634979521992277
- Inês Norton (2021). Reflections on bodies in lockdown: Notes on new mappings of tactility, Multimodality and Society, 1(1), 75-80. https://doi.org/10.1177/2634979521992278
- Marloeke van der Vlugt (2021). Reflections on bodies in lockdown: The polyphony of touch, Multimodality and Society, 1(1), 81-87. https://doi.org/10.1177/2634979521992275
- Pooja Satyogi (2021). Perverse Economies of Intimate and Personal Labour: Resuming Domestic Work in Households after the Lockdown, Anthropology in Action, 28(1), 39-46. https://doi.org/10.3167/aia.2021.280108
- Ishita dey, ‘Social Distancing, “Touch-Me-Not” and the Migrant Worker’, in Ranabir Samaddar (ed.), Borders of an Epidemic: COVID-19 and Migrant Workers (Calcutta Research Group, 2020), 98-103. https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.net/63394227/COVID-19_and_Migration-Ranabir_Samaddar20200522-94125-1fj4brh-with-cover-page-v2.pdf?Expires=1625664031&Signature=f6g6FrOvNT3sOIsUBteUL4iGasH3dvuu345nJBV77xlnAZD7wBHeLLGRP~JQ~OonhWJelUUDXY5054MVAKR496piptuN0hLcg1vyF6kfxRqU2htIMEkh7GhDK5iOuGrVPRCABum13GazR-rRhxDJGXx~6oC5tHN4MTgPoUIVXN8xX7d-f1nnAPFZd-s4OMOMFhLKrM4wq~1PXuQeUKTraEfMnHFA2JFevYZtSZvJRRoDQUWM3A0FhFKYR6R4NsTSdNf04TWIlOBavC9kPJYkKQbuZ64ADatpg7ixjQC8PeehmEVMcq0eBG-2IPUHf-A94NG0Zqz-BXx~rckFg0qfdg__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA
- Isobel Sigley, (2020). It has touched us all: Commentary on the social implications of touch during the COVID-19 pandemic, Social Sciences and Humanities Open, 2(1), 100051. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssaho.2020.100051