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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Morgan Rauscher, Individualized Program

Expressing Tacit Material Sensations from a Robo-Sculpting Process by Communicating Shared Haptic Experiences

Date & time

Monday, August 24, 2020 (all day)


This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


Making sculpture is a process of expressing the inner 'tacit-self' by way of tangible material interactions that become shared artefacts. The existence of tacit-tactile awareness indicates a natural world of personal haptic experience that this thesis will attempt to unpack. Tele-haptic solutions are presented in the form of two robotic sculptures, Touchbot #1 and Touchbot #2. Touchbots (collectively) are the study objects that this practice-based art-research thesis produced, to ask the question:
Is it possible to create a machine that could capture and retransmit tacit-tactile experiences within the artistic act of sculpting, through material engagement, from a sculptor's hand to a non-sculptor's hand?

Research, conducted and presented, aims to demonstrate that robotic haptic feedback is a vehicle for communicating 'touch' messages through mechanical transmission during sculptural actions (demonstrated through participant interviews and video observation analysis).

Additionally, an epistemological context for exploring 'hands-on' knowledge and practice deficits in machine-assisted object modelling is presented including: Michael Polanyi's Tacit Dimension (Polanyi, 2009), David Gooding's Thing Knowledge (Gooding, 2004, p. 1) and Lambros Malafouris' "Material Agency" and material culture (Malafouris, 2008, pp. 19-36). Intersecting bodies of knowledge weave a common thread to support developing a method of communicating tacit sculptural information using haptic touch experience.

Unfortunately, there exists more tele-haptics and telerobotics technology for industrial applications than artworks using the same technology. For instance, 'rapid prototyping' technology—such as 3D printers—is removing human tactile-material interaction from object making altogether. In response to the technological obstacle of expanding contemporary interactive sculpture, haptics is applied to include real-time, iterative, robotically assisted object modelling. A review of contemporary haptic technology demonstrates a gap in our understanding of embodied knowledge transference. A shortlist of contemporary artists and their works that address the communication of tacit-haptic experiences is also offered, highlighting the importance of exploring embodied knowledge transfer.

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