Dr. da Vinci: The Reshaping of Surgical Touch

Archer, JE. (2018). Dr. da Vinci: The Reshaping of Surgical Touch. Workshop CHI 2018, Reshaping Touch Communication: An Interdisciplinary Research Agenda.

Science and technology have long played a role in shaping touch communication. Touch has typically been conceptualized as natural and purely physical in human-computer interaction and other fields, which denies the social, cultural, and political implications of touch and technology that reshapes touch. To push against this orientation my research explores the socio-material shaping of touch and technology by using approaches from Communication and Media Studies. The current research focuses on the introduction of a surgical robotic assistant, da Vinci, because it provides a compelling case study to think through the way touch communication is in the process of being reshaped in medical settings. The relationship between healing, trust, and touch in the medical field has a fraught history with the introduction of new instruments which have further mediated tactile interaction between doctors and patients. What happens to that relationship when the touch of your surgeon becomes the touch of a robot?