Dr. Katia Schwerzmann


Philosophy of Touch in the Digital Age


Digital technologies increasingly mediate social interactions. Far from immaterial, these technologies are located in devices with which human beings are in permanent bodily contact: they track our habits, our movement, our relationships. More importantly, they mediate our contact with one another, as they increasingly determine who we encounter and what enters our perceptual realm. As a result, these digital devices occupy the space between bodies, and shape the very nature of their encounter increasing tendencies to which society is already prone (e.g., disparities in the treatment between the rich, who are personally catered to, versus the masses, or between white people and people of color). 
To describe and reflect upon the implications of the ways in which digital media transform the relations between individual and collective bodies, my research project engages the concepts of touch and contact. This reflection is based on a double assumption. Pursuing recent philosophical discourses about the community and the political, most notably by Jean-Luc Nancy, Erin Manning and Sara Ahmed, my first assumption posits that the community, characterized as “being-with,” originates in the production of the touching proximity between bodies. While this proximity has traditionally been described—for instance by Nancy—in terms of spatiotemporal simultaneity, digital devices aim at producing proximity-effects despite spatial distance and technological mediations. My second assumption is that far from being a figure of immediacy, the concept of touch since Aristotle has been understood in terms of mediality, technicality and prosthetics. However, I argue that digital media actualize a different, non-prosthetic concept of touch that I call “posthuman,” as touch no longer originates from the human body, but rather consists of coupling bodies to technological devices.
In this project, I aim to describe the conceptual and technological shift from human to posthuman touch centered around digital technologies, and how posthuman touch transforms what we understand as community and the political. Digital technologies—whose predictions are based on past datasets and feedback loops—endanger the possibility of an event as the unpredictable disruption of the existing order. Yet, I argue that this posthuman conception of touch can function as a form of engaged, materialist critique of such an order. Thinking about the possibility of a critique “in touch” with its object is essential to a nuanced approach to technological transformations. 


I began my academic career at the University of Lausanne, studying Philosophy, French and German literature. After obtaining my master’s degree in Philosophy, I went on to attend the Graduate School "Notation Iconicity" at the Freie Universität Berlin (2011–2014), and obtained my Ph.D. in December 2016 as a joint degree between the FU Berlin and the University of Lausanne. My dissertation entitled Theorie des graphischen Feldes critically engages with the repression of the bodily character of graphic marks ingrained in the philosophical discourse on writing and drawing. The book resulting from my dissertation (Theorie des graphischen Feldes, Diaphanes, 2020) offers a theory that accounts for the specific corporality and operativity of graphic marks understood as our fundamental, embodied way to orient ourselves in thought and in the world. The two successive postdoctoral fellowships I was granted from the Swiss National Research Foundation allowed me to spend two and a half years in the United States (2017–2020) at the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University, as well as at UCSC as a Visiting Scholar working on my current project, Philosophy of Touch in the Digital Age. My current research intersects the concepts of body, politics, and technology. My areas of expertise are poststructuralism, media philosophy, phenomenology, (new) materialisms, critical posthumanism, and the philosophy of technology.


Schwerzmann Katia. Philosophy of Touch in the Digital Age.

Schwerzmann, Katia (2020), “Moralisation de la vie nue – transhumanisme et biopolitique”. Revue des Sciences Humaines, 340. Eingereicht

Schwerzmann, Katia (2020), “Wirken und Wissen im Wechselspiel: Das Verhältnis zwischen Schema und Bild”, in: Julian Jochmaring (Hg.), Nach der ikonischen Wende, Berlin: Kadmos. Im Druck

Schwerzmann, Katia (2020), “Begegnung”, in: Hanna Sohns & Johannes Ungelenk (Hg.), ABC des Berührens, München: August Verlag. Im Druck
Wiser, Antonin & Schwerzmann, Katia (2020), “Derrida, Kittler et le calendrier des post-”. Études de lettres, 312, p. 75-80.

Schwerzmann, Katia (2020), “‘Coupling Parts that are not Supposed to Touch’ oder die Berührung als Kritik”, in: Sandra Fluhrer & Alexander Waszynski (Hg.), Tangieren, Baden-Baden: Nomos, p. 281-297.

Schwerzmann, Katia (2018). “Introduction au dossier critique ‘Théorie des média’,” Acta fabula, vol. 19, n° 9, “Théorie des média” URL: http://www.fabula.org/acta/document11596.php.

Schwerzmann, Katia (2018). “Point de contact : pour une esthétique de la rencontre,” Fabula / Les colloques, Roland Barthes, contemporanéités intempestives, Antonin Wiser (Hg.) URL: http://www.fabula.org/colloques/document5761.php.

Schwerzmann, Katia (2018). “Pourquoi nous (ne) sommes déjà (plus) posthumains,” in: Fabula / Les colloques, Le Temps du posthumain ? Carlo Tello (Hg.). URL: http://www.fabula.org/colloques/document5472.php.

Schwerzmann, Katia (2017). “‘La lettre morte’ – Friedrich Kittler en correspondance avec les poststructuralistes,” Appareil, 19, p. 1-16.

Schwerzmann, Katia (2015). “L’haptique et la question du fond. Réflexion autour du sens du fond dans les pratiques graphiques indiciaires à partir de Riegl et Maldiney,” in: François Félix (Hg.), Xi Dong/Ouest-Est. Voies esthétiques, Lausanne: L'Âge d'Homme, p. 50-75.

Schwerzmann, Katia (2014). “‘Une sorte de remontée vers le corps.’ Skizze einer Ästhetik der körperlichen Responsivität im Ausgang von Roland Barthes’ Überlegungen zur Pseudo-Schrift,” Kodikas/Code. Ars Semeiotica, 37/3/4, p. 249-260.

Schwerzmann, Katia (2012). “Dimensionen des Graphismus. Die drei Pole der Linie,” in: Christian Driesen, Rea Köppel, Benjamin Meyer-Kramer & Eike Wittrock (Hg.), Über Kritzeln. Graphismen zwischen Schrift, Bild, Text und Zeichen, Berlin, Zürich: Diaphanes, p. 39-57. 

Schwerzmann, Katia (2020), “Janina Loh: Trans- und Posthumanismus zur Einführung”. Zeitschrift für philosophische Literatur, 8(2), p. 9-14.

Schwerzmann, Katia (2018). “Pour une réforme des humanités. La théorie des média selon N. Katherine Hayles,” Acta fabula, vol. 19, n° 9, “Théorie des média” URL: http://www.fabula.org/acta/document11620.php.