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What is Human Computer Sexual Interaction?

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Updated April 21, 2012

While there is an over abundance of explicit sexual material one can access using computers and other technology, surprisingly little has been written about the way humans both use and interact with technology in the course of being sexual.

Human computer sexual interaction (HCSI) refers to any and all the ways that humans interact with computers, and more broadly technology, or with each other <i>through</i> technology, in a context that is considered sexual by any or all of the participants. Because “sexual” includes not only physical sexual acts, but also sexual thoughts, emotions, desires, and fantasies, HCSI can be conceptualized as both the activities or actions that humans engage in and the subjective experience of these activities.

In terms of experiences people currently engage in, HCSI might include:

  • Emailing
  • Text messaging
  • Instant messaging
  • Personal blogging about sex
  • Using cell phone/video phone cameras
  • Internet pornography (still images, video, interactive porn)
  • Social network sites (e.g. MySpace, Facebook)
  • Sex social networking (e.g. Naughty America)
  • Massively multi-player role playing games (e.g. World of Warcraft)
  • Metaverses (e.g. Second Life)
  • Metaverses that are intentionally sexual (e.g. Red Light District, Sociolotron)
  • Cyber prostitution
  • Teledilonics

Human computer sexual interaction is an area that is just beginning to be studied (the term itself has yet to be widely adopted). There are three other, more developed concepts that are relevant to understanding HCSI; computer human interaction (CHI), ubiquitous computing, and intimate computing.

Computer Human Interaction (CHI)

Computer human interaction refers to all the ways that humans and computers, or more broadly technology, interact with each other. It is both a field of study for academics, and also a profession for computer scientists, designers, anthropologists, psychologists, mathematicians, and almost any other discipline you can imagine.

When you turn on your cell phone, when you look at porn on your computer, when you use a push button automatic door opener, you are interacting with technology, and there is often computing behind the scenes.

The funny thing about computer human interaction is that when CHI folks are doing their job, you aren’t even aware you are using a computer.

Ubiquitous Computing

Ubiquitous computing, as the name suggests, is the idea that computers and more generally computing will eventually be everywhere. Ubiquitous computing describes a situation where computers aren’t distinct objects we turn on to perform certain tasks, rather computing will be seamlessly integrated into our daily lives so that the technology that enables computing feels like a “natural” part of the environment. The goal is to make computing a more intuitive and casual experience, one that doesn’t take away from whatever the task at hand may be. Read more about ubiquitous computing.

Intimate Computing?

Along with the idea of ubiquitous computing, people who work in the area of human computer interaction are also thinking about intimate computing. While there is no one definition for this term it seems to refer both to the ways we experience intimacy with the technology we use (how we love our lap tops, our cell phones, our PDAs) and the way that we feel the technology we use “knows” us through our routine reliance on it to remember our schedule, connect us with friends, lovers, and family, as well as how much physical closeness we share with this technology. In their seminal paper Intimate (Ubiquitous) Computing, Genevieve Bell, Tim Brooke, Elizabeth Churchill, and Eric Paulos write that,
“as appliances and computation move away from the desktop, and as designers move toward designing for emotion and social connection rather than usability and utility, we are poised to design technologies that are explicitly intimate and/or intimacy promoting.”

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