Emotional Media and the Symbioses of Feelings in New Media Culture

østensjøvannet puddle healing me, April 17, 2008 | © Courtesy of Shannon Kringen/Flickr.
østensjøvannet puddle healing me, April 17, 2008 | © Courtesy of Shannon Kringen/Flickr.

In this post, Anna Malinowska and Toby Miller introduce their co-edited special issue “Media and Emotions. The New frontiers of Affect in Digital Culture” of Open Cultural Studies, while they reflect on how the new media have impacted the human systems of feelings.

A Guest Article by Anna Malinowska and Toby Miller.


The rise of digitalism and the new media forms have been of a significant effect on human emotions and the ways we express and experience feelings in daily interactions. Specifically, the intervention of devices into human-to-human interactions, and the increasing presence of media gadgets – the actual apparatuses (smartphone) and their accompanying software – create new forms of emotional symbioses in which “technological things” become humans’ equals in terms of a contribution to their “systems of feeling(s)”. With life getting more and more virtual, there have been new manners of conduct and new environments of affect by means of which we engage emotionally through and with non-animate agents. Also, we let them mediate, shape, evaluate and measure our emotional states and leave marks on our own affective corpuses.

The emotional symbioses with the media result from the fact that the media have become more sensitive. Anna Malinowska and Toby Miller discuss this in terms of “Sensitive Media.” As such media have also become more invasive in terms of their impact on our social codes, political expression – sometimes for better (not worse), sense of safety and belonging, personal well-being, and systems of help and support. Thus, in this special issue Ben Little and Alison Winch have inquired into the modalities of ““just hanging out with you in my back yard” [in their article on] Mark Zuckerberg and Mediated Paternalism.” Tantalizingly, Inger-Lise Kalviknes Bore, Anne Graefer, and Allaina Kilby, have explored how “[…] Pussy Grabs back: Humour, Digital Affects and Women’s Protest.” Likewise, Natalie Dixon has written on “Stranger-ness and Belonging in a Neighbourhood WhatsApp Group.” As importantly, Nina Janasik-Honkela has delved into “Reclaiming Melancholy by Emotion Tracking? Datafication of Emotions in Health Care and at the Workplace.” In parallel, Meg Peters has produced a piece on “How Bell Canada Capitalises on the Millennial: Affective Labour, Intersectional Identity, and Mental Health.

In this respect, this collection of articles shows that the media today penetrate the most unreachable social constructs; despite their intangibility they redefine our systems of space and social integration – all this by means of affective work that shows itself either through abstract concepts of art and artistic creation, or through integration in which technology and its machines becomes human and a human turns out positively machinic. Thus, Alice Entwistle, Inga Burrows, Fiona Carroll, Nathan Thomas, Mark Ware, and Gareth Loudon have shed light on “Affect and Dialogue in Collaborative Cross- Disciplinary Research: Developing Interactive Public Art on Cardiff Bay Barrage,” while Melissa Gronlund has reflected on “Affective Iconoclasm: Codes of Labour as a Human Characteristic.” Similarly, Treva Michelle Pullen has compared “Whimsical Bodies and Performative Machines: Aesthetics and Affects of Robotic Art,”, whereas Karen Wood, Rosemary E. Cisneros, and Sarah Whatley have concentrated on “Motion Capturing Emotions.”

With ten papers in this special issue we explore new forms of affect and emotional symbioses that have emerged from technological development and interactions at the crossroads of organic and machinic coexistence. We re-examine the relationship between new media forms, media-ridden realities, and emotional structures (interactions, reactions, affordances etc.) with respect to cultural processes to revisit the anthropocentric systems of feelings as revised by technologies.

Written by Anna Malinowska and Toby Miller.

Edited by Izabella Penier and Pablo Markin.


Featured Image Credits: østensjøvannet puddle healing me, April 17, 2008 | © Courtesy of
Shannon Kringen/Flickr.


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