Imaginary Touch: Multi-Sensory Experiences for Non-Physical Connections Over Distance

In this blog post, I want to share my ongoing exploration of new working methods that aim to recreate sensations of touch and non-bodily connections, particularly in the context of remote or online experiences. As part of my practice-as-research project, which began during the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to evolve, I have developed two audio recordings that offer online multi-sensory experiences.

The significance of physical touch in interpersonal relationships and emotional well-being has gained recognition in recent years (Heatley et al., 2020). However, events like the #metoo era and the COVID-19 pandemic have limited opportunities for physical touch and non-bodily connections, creating a need for innovative methods to recreate touch experiences across distances or online (Sigurdardottir & Halldorsdottir, 2021). The shift to remote and online practices has presented challenges for fields that traditionally rely on physical touch, such as dance. The inability to engage in direct physical contact has prompted us to explore how we can recreate the intimate and sensorial experiences that touch provides. Moreover, even outside the limitations imposed by a pandemic, there are individuals who cannot or choose not to engage in close physical contact due to various reasons like physical disabilities, sensory sensitivities, or personal boundaries. For these individuals, the ability to experience touch-like sensations remotely offers opportunities for inclusion and participation in activities that may otherwise be inaccessible to them.

To address these limitations, I have created a series of online multi-sensory experiences that aim to explore alternative ways of engaging with and experiencing touch in online spaces. Each experience approaches the concept of touch in a unique manner. It is essential to note that when referring to touch-like sensations, I adopt a comprehensive understanding that goes beyond the physical act. Drawing inspiration from philosopher Erin Manning (Manning, 2006, 2013), I view touch as a transformative and relational process rooted in the concept of prehension. I emphasize the interconnected nature of touch, recognizing that it extends beyond mere physical sensations.

This post introduces two audio files for personal exploration at home or in someone else’s home. The recordings prepare for improvisational tasks, cultivating presence in external and internal states. They invite a sensory journey, focusing on your sense of touch through various approaches. Use them to prepare for remote workshops, classes, or rehearsals.

I encourage you to fully immerse yourself in these recordings and approach them with an open mind and a willingness to explore. Embrace the possibilities of self-discovery and self-expression that they offer. As you engage with the audio files, take note of any insights, sensations, or experiences that arise. Feel free to incorporate these recordings into your own creative process or share your responses and reflections in the comment section below. Enjoy the journey of reconnecting with your sense of touch and the exploration of new artistic possibilities.

It is important to acknowledge that each experience will be subjective to each individual.

Both voice recordings are site-specific and multi-sensory. This means that the physical space in which the experience takes place is a crucial aspect of the overall experience. I encourage you to embrace your surroundings and incorporate what you see, feel, and hear around you during the experience.

After the 15-20 minute experience, I invite you to reflect on your experience through a brief written or visual response. If you wish, you can share some of your responses in the comment section below.

To have the best audio experience, I recommend using either speakers or headphones.

You can choose which audio recording you would like to participate in below. Feel free to engage with both audio recordings, either consecutively or on different days.

I encourage you to engage in some breathing exercises or take a moment to relax before starting the audio recordings. This will help you center yourself and be fully present, enabling you to concentrate on your senses and immerse yourself in the experience. By taking a few deep breaths and allowing your body and mind to relax, you create a receptive state for the upcoming sensory journey.

Each audio recording will guide you to different areas of your home. Please read the preparations carefully and follow the instructions to ensure the best experience possible.

Following the sensory performance, we welcome you to share your experiences with us in the comment section below.

Thank you for your participation!

First Audio recording preparation for Outside-in Touch:

I (Hannah) will be guiding you through a shared experience from your chair.
This experience is only available during day light hours.

In preparation for our journey please choose the window you most enjoy looking out of and place a chair next to it. Place the chair so you have an equal view out of the window and the room & photograph your space. Ensure you’re warm, bring with you a blanket and a cushion to sit on and with. Wear warm and comfortable clothes but remove your socks. You can choose to listen to this audio recording through headphones, or a loudspeaker.

We will be considering the contrast between fleeting contact and familiar interpersonal contact. I chose this place as it is somewhere I find rest and comfort, a place for reflection and meditation. I enjoy the juxtaposition of this place, being in the comfort of my home but maintaining a connection to the outside world. 

Once you have found your space and collected the things you need begin the recording in your own time.

Second recording preparation for Bedd(in)g Play!:

This experience will take place in your bedroom, mainly on and around your bed. It will be 20 minutes in total, during which you will best enjoy the experience if you are alone and uninterrupted.

​I (Johanna) invite you to listen to this audio recording during daytime hours. You will experience your bedroom – and more particularly the space of your bed – a little differently than usual. We will play, rest, and notice sensations together. You will be invited to move, but always in a gentle way that suits your body best.

​Feel free to play the audio track either from a phone or a laptop, and to connect your device either to a speaker, earbuds or headphones, as long as you have your hands free during the whole experience and you can hear the sound perfectly, even while moving in your bedroom and on your bed. 

A few things for you to do before you start: 

  • Fully clear your bed so you can sit, lie or move on it. 
  • Make sure the floor space around your bed is relatively clear too (you should be able to take a couple of steps).
  • Wear something comfortable, and warm enough if you tend to get cold quite easily.

If you are interested in completing another online, multi-sensory experience, please visit our website:

For further blog material relating to the the TDPT Special Issue, Touch in Training, please click here.

To visit the TDPT ‘Touch in Training’ Special Issue, please click here.

List of Works:

Heatley, T., Dunbar, R. I. M., & Montero, M. (2020). Physical Contact and Loneliness: Being Touched Reduces Perceptions of Loneliness—PMC. Springer Nature.

Manning, E. (2006). Politics of Touch. Minnessota Press.

Manning, E. (2013). Duke University Press—Always More Than One. Duke University Press.

Sigurdardottir, S., & Halldorsdottir, S. (2021). Persistent Suffering: The Serious Consequences of Sexual Violence against Women and Girls, Their Search for Inner Healing and the Significance of the #MeToo Movement. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(4), 1849.