tactility and proprioception

The purpose of this essay is to explain ‘tactility’ and proprioception’.

Tactility means the capability of being felt or touched. A tactile sensor is a device that measures information arising from physical interaction with its environment. They are modeled after the biological sense of ‘Cutaneous Touch’ that is capable of detecting stimuli resulting from mechanical stimulation, temperature, and pain. They are employed where physical interaction sensing is required, including robotics, computer hardware and security system. One common example is touch screen devices used in phones and computing.

‘Proprioception’ is the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement. It is provided by proprioceptors in skeletal striated muscles and in joints.

‘Kinesthesia’ closely refers to proprioception alone. The initiation of proprioception is activation of proprioception in the periphery. Proprioceptors are also called ‘adequate stimuli’ receptors are found in fruit flies, African clawed frogs and Zebra fish. The human proprioceptor has yet to be discovered.

Proprioception is tested by American police officers using the field sobriety test to check for alcohol intoxication. The subject is required to touch his or her nose with eyes closed; people with normal proprioception may make an errors of no more than 20 mm, while people suffering from impaired proprioception fail this test due to difficulty locating their limbs in space relative to their noses.

According to Barthes, foaming, burning and depth are tactile metaphors whose meanings are mostly unconscious and culturally specific.

Some senses are emphasized by a culture and others become the target of repression for example, Desana men would appear to use ‘sight’ as a substitute for ‘touch’ when they relive birth and other sexually related experiences through.  The visual imagery of ‘hallucinations.’ In Islamic society, the repression of ‘sight’ which results from the prohibition on the visual representation of ‘God’ and the fear of being accused of casting the ‘evil eye’ would seem to be designed to emphasize hearing the word of ‘God’. Every culture strikes its own balance among the senses. While some tend towards an equality of the senses, most culture manifest some bias privileging a particular sense for example.

Blood a variety of sensory properties; Its is warm, viscous, red salty and odorous. Thus, north Americans tend to think of blood in terms of its visual appearance, its redness. In South India, practitioners of siddha medicines give priority to tactile dimension of blood; The pulse it produces within the body.

Sara Hendren, writer editor of ‘Ables’ links art and design together with high and low-tech prosthetics, both practical and speculative to explore questions about ability, disability, the normalized and medicalized body, and more.

One of the object in Abler that caught my attention ‘Slope: Intercept’ architecture project, organized around the inclined plane. It’s a material and digital set of work, documenting the material ramps she builds, installs, and uses with others, and gathering ramps of all kinds. In the broadest sense, this project is about the inclined plane as an overlooked technology. It is also about the inclined plane as a technology of elevations, plural. Its elevations are Mathematical and industrial but also social, political and cultural. It is pragmatic, futuristic, potable, economical and intelligent in design and use. Its only shortfall is that has not been marketed well. Also, its newness-design might make some people dubious of its practical usage.

As Sara says, “I wanted all these artworks & engineering work to be rich and generative as they provoke in the imagination and also the critical conversations they spark about abled and disabled bodies.”


2 thoughts on “tactility and proprioception

  1. This is a well constructed essay. You state your objective right off the bat, and you give clear, concise definitions. I do think you need a works cited page with MLA citations, since you refer to Barthes and Hendren. I liked how you gave examples how how different cultures and people can perceive things differently like blood. It was also nice how you explained how people can value senses differently as well. There were a few grammatical errors that distracted me from reading, though, like in paragraph 8, line 1, “Blood…”. Otherwise, great essay 🙂


  2. I agree; you provide a fascinating range of examples from a wide range of cultures and scientific domains. My main concern would be at the level of organization: how does one paragraph connect to the next? What is the organizing principle behind your choosing one example over another? What are the steps a reader would need to follow in order to get from the meaning of tactility and proprioception to Hendren’s work on the inclined plane?


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