Touching at a Distance: Digital Intimacies, Haptic Platforms, and the Ethics of Consent

Madelaine Ley*, Nathan Rambukkana

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
308 Downloads (Pure)


The last decade has seen rise in technologies that allow humans to send and receive intimate touch across long distances. Drawing together platform studies, digital intimacy studies, phenomenology of touch, and ethics of technology, we argue that these new haptic communication devices require specific ethical consideration of consent. The paper describes several technologies, including Kiiroo teledildonics, the Kissenger, the Apple Watch, and Hey Bracelet, highlighting how the sense of touch is used in marketing to evoke a feeling of connection within the digital sphere. We then discuss the ambiguity of skin-to-skin touch and how it is further complicated in digital touch by remediation through platforms, companies, developers, manufacturers, cloud storage sites, the collection and use of data, research, satellites, and the internet. Lastly, we raise concerns about how consent of data collection and physical consent between users will be determined, draw on examples in virtual reality and sex-robotics, and ultimately arguing for further interdisciplinary research into this area.

Original languageEnglish
Article number63
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Communication technologies
  • Digital intimacy
  • Ethics of technology
  • Haptics
  • Platform studies
  • Teledildonics


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