post At the Nokia Research Labs, Tampere, Finland

May 13th, 2008

I have been in Tampere, in Finland meeting with the Nokia Research Group. Was an interesting time – I pitched a few projects to them and they seem quite supportive of the work. A particular work, “Synchronicity” which has been initially funded by the Australian Arts council Synapse Award (still awaiting Australian Research Council approval) they are interested in.It looks at how prosody can be used to trigger meaningful video/ moving image sharing. I will be working with Christian Jones – who knows a lot about tracking the emotional intonation of voice, and also Andrew Brown, who works a lot with computational systems and sound. Nokia seemed very supportive of this project.

I also pitched a few other projects – “Divulge”, which looks at how psycholinguistics and neuroscientific paradigms can be used to alter and imbue textual conversation. I have been trying to get this project off the ground, taking advantage of  my time in London working on the ANAT Synapse Residency. For the project, I am aiming to work with Pat Healey a very interesting computer scientist running the interdisciplinary lab at Queen Mary,  Jonathon Ginzbirg a computer linguist based at Kings College and also Chris Frith and Hugo Critchley, as well as Nadia Berthouze, who work in emotion HCI evaluation at university of London’s Human computer interaction center.

I also pitched another project exploring serendipity. I pitched to two groups at Nokia Research Labs. It was a long meeting – went for three, but worth the trip.

I am now writing up how I would like them to support the work. 


post cultural specifics of reading faces

May 13th, 2008

Filed under: interesting research,working on conceptual threads — Tina @ 5:55 pm


Published: March 18, 2008


How do you know how someone is feeling? For people in Western societies, it is usually easy: look at the person’s face.

But for people from Japan and other Eastern societies, a new study finds, it may be more complex — having to do not only with evaluating the other person’s face but also with gauging the mood of others who might be around.

The differences may speak to deeply ingrained cultural traits, the authors write, suggesting that Westerners may “see emotions as individual feelings, while Japanese see them as inseparable from the feelings of the group.”

The findings are based on a study of about three dozen students in two groups — one Japanese, one Western — who were shown a series of drawings of five children. The volunteers were told that the drawings were going to be used in an educational television program and that the researchers wanted to see how realistic they were.

Sometimes the expressions of all the children in an image were the same, but more often they varied. The participants were asked to look at the face of the person at the center of the picture and rate it on a 10-point scale for happiness, sadness and anger.

The Western students did not much change their assessment of a character’s mood no matter what was happening with the other characters. But for most of the Japanese participants, it made a measurable difference. If the figure in the center had a happy face but those in the background were sad or angry, they tended to give the happy figure a lower score. If everyone was happy, they gave the figure in the center a higher one. When the images were shown to two other groups of students wearing equipment that tracked their eye movements, the researchers found that the Japanese spent more time looking at the children in the background of the pictures.

The study appears in the March issue of The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. While the study offers hints into how different the world may look to people from different cultures, it raises as many questions as answers. “We don’t know exactly what’s going on,” said the lead author, Takahiko Masuda, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Alberta in Canada.

Still, the study fits squarely in a longstanding body of research into differences between Eastern and Western perceptions of the world around us.

Researchers studying paintings from the 16th through 20th centuries, for example, have found that in Western portraits, the subject took up a larger portion of the picture and was painted in a way to make the subject stand out, the study said. In Eastern portraits, the subjects tended to be smaller and to blend into the background.

Even now, the differences often remain. When Dr. Masuda and other researchers handed students cameras in an earlier study and asked them to take portraits, the subjects filled more space in the frame of the photographs taken by the Americans.

Many researchers have suggested that East Asians take a more holistic view of the world.

In the new study on faces, the findings may also reflect social differences, said Kristi L. Lockhart, a lecturer in psychology at Yale who has studied both cultures. Where Western societies tend to promote individuality, Eastern ones emphasize the needs of the group. So when a Japanese sees a happy person amid sad ones, it may be a bit unsettling. He may adjust his view of how happy that person is “because of his real desire to fit in with the group and to not be different,” Dr. Lockhart said.

post exhibition at the ICA

April 28th, 2008

All of the sudden it seems, we are preparing for an exhibition at the ICA, London – opening may 6th. The promo material needs to be written by midday – the work needs to be finalised. I have a big day with Evan Raskob, the programmer/interactive designer working on Chameleon to try and make the most of the prototypes we are exhibiting. Last we week we sat down with Chris Frith, the social neuroscientist on the project, and tried to flesh out the emotional algorithms. Its working better, but I feel there is still an issue with pacing/dynamic and also the aesthetic of the work. Hopefully by 5pm today – we will both be happy.

We are showing two version –  each effects each others emotional states. As each figure emits each emotional state, a live scour of the internet (live chat rooms) searching for statements that relate to the emotion they are feeling. It then transposes the text from live chat site to contextualise the emotional state. For example, if the figure feels sad, the project displays a sad portrait while at the same time transposing live text of someone writing about sadness in internet chat rooms. The conversation is always on the threshold of making sense.

We are using the API of We are looking to a database of   a “live” snapshot of the last 1500 or so feelings from – there are over 5000 different relating to a range of emotions – they are sourced from live chat rooms , etc. We are transposing these ‘thoughts’ on the faces.  Its quite an intriguing story that reveals and a quite like the way we are desperately searching for meaning all the time.

The other prototype looks at emotional contagion in groups. The emotion of the group is constantly shifting, but occasionally through group cohesively comes together in bouts of happiness,etc. Evan is writing a code that you can text and emotion to the group, which effects the social dynamic of the group. Quite nice for the social space it is being exhibited in. Anyway, we shall see how it all pans out today. Hopefully I will get two full days with evan this week, as I am feeling a bit apprehensive about it all.




post Meeting with Evan Raskob

April 4th, 2008

We were stuck in jetlag land last night. Pablo finally slept about 2am and then we were awake till six am. Woke up for an 11am meeting with Evan Raskob, the programmer working on the Chameleon Project.

We worked through some of the algorithms, but really we need to sit down with Chris Frith, the social neuroscientist working on the project. We looked at the piece that explores the propagation of emotions. We slowed it down, played with scale and paced the propagation with it so we could see what was going on. Its a really complex set of probabilities that is hard to understand, Especially in the midst of jetlag. Its looking much better than the first version, but its pretty essential to sit down with both Chris and Evan for a few hours so we all make sure we are understanding each other.


We discussed what was next. We need to try a version of the propagation piece that only captures the facial expression and not upper body. We need to experiment with how it looks spatially – can it work in a row? A cross? What is the best way for it to work? Can the figures just be facing each other, as if in dialogue?

We need to get the version of the two heads facing each other working in Processing.




We also need to work with the two faces one and investigate ways of scouring the web to find appropriate text to transpose onto the work. We will try to the api of – the api , for example .

Returned XML samples:

The API is free under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Sharealike license ( ).

Sites that use this API must provide attribution by including the following html on their site:

Powered by: We Feel Fine.

Finally, we discussed the integration of touch. Evan mentioned some one who is pretty switched on with dealing with haptics. It would be great to meet him next week.

post emotional contagion film

April 2nd, 2008

We did a four camera shoot in the Telus studio at banff – We had Maria Lantin, Director, Intersections Digital Studio Emily Carr Institute and also video artist Leila Sujir, myself and also Matthew Wild, my partner and Pablo Wild, my son who is now five months old.

The aim was to capture micro expressions and emotional contagion. The ability to read emotions in others and ourselves is central to empathy and social understanding. We are extremely sensitive to emotional body language as up to 90% of all of our communication is nonverbal. Emotions and body language spread in social collectives, almost by contagion. In daily encounters, people automatically and continuously synchronize with the facial expressions, voices, gestures, postures, movements and even physiology of others. Some responses happen unconsciously, in milliseconds. Science has revealed that these shifting muscle movements then trigger the actual emotional feeling by causing the same neurons to fire in the brain as if you were experiencing the emotion naturally. When you feel happy, your brain might send a signal to your mouth to smile. With emotional contagion, the facial tiny muscles movements involved in smiling send a signal to your brain, telling it to feel happy (Hatfield 1996). This is how emotions spread.

We organised it that the cameras formed a semi – circle. One camera focused on Maria, one on Matt, one on Leila and one on myself. We talked for an hour. I think, in the future when I have time to look at it – it will become a short film called ‘Mimesis’ – but basically – its sort of an exercise to understand emotional contagion over time.

So, live action will provide the source material of “Mimesis”. It was important that the event take place with in a controlled and well-lit space such as a studio, and the Telus studio at the Banff Center was great for it. Four digital HD video cameras on tripods focused on the upper body area of the four participants, monitoring interplays of nuances.

In the future, through animation compositing techniques, the video will be slowed to reveal delicate interplays of communication. The voice will be stripped, so the body language can be isolated and amplified. It was shot on a black background – in order to focus on the micro-movements of body language. An important area to deal with is pace. First cuts show that working a ten percent for a single channel work doesn’t really work.

as far as treating hte footage – Other than delicate layering techniques, levels, keying and masking, I imagine the vision will be routed in reality. Each emotional connection will be synched through time, making the piece a scientific documentary of interplay as much as a poetic amplification of the search for empathy. The slowing down of pace will allow the viewer trace the nuances of communication. The rhythms of emotional contagion will drive the editing style and effects. Once in a while four heads will fill the screen to document the flow of understanding between each other; occasionally the piece will focus on one head at a time, revealing the nuances of micro expressions; every so often compositing techniques will be used, delicately over-layering the four faces, merging them, so the interplays over emotions are traced? The grading of the footage will be strong to emphasizing shadows and highlights. At times the piece will focus on uncomfortable and nervous moments of silence, building to focus on more contagious elements, e.g how laughter, yawning and touching the face travels through out social groups. The lighting was quite dramatic. Already I am thinking that I should have focused on the faces more.

Another potential way to look at it could be by concentrating on the moments when we are uncomfortable, confused, bored. I am not sure how to work with it, but so far the rushes look good. It will be interesting to see what Chris Frith, the social neuroscientist I am working with, thinks of it. Important to think about pacing – a sort of ramping or something.


mocked up set up for shoot. In the end we didn’t use a dinner party setting, we just drank wine. Interestingly, after the cameras were running for about ten minutes we all forgot about the cameras and the studio setting and just got immersed in conversation.


beginning ideas for treating the footage.

post The propagation of emotions – first prototype.

April 2nd, 2008

Last night Evan Raskob, the wonderful programmer/artist I am working on with the Chameleon Project sent me the first stage of emotional contagion propagation piece.


mock up of emotional contagion piece of how it could work in exhibtion space.


screen capture of how piece is working now – all screen are designated to one screen so we can work through how the algorithms are actually working or not working.

Viewed the first rough last night. His written up using processing. Fantastic, as it allows me to view it over the web – and when we get it fine tuned a bit – it will allow me to show the project to the other collaborators over the web so we can all get a sense of what is going on.

Aesthetically and algorithmically it’s a first stage – sort of interesting. A beginning – the first thing that comes to me is that the movement of the faces make me focus more on the changing shape of the background rather than the facial expression. Secondly, I find myself reading the personalities of the people also via the clothes they are wearing. Thirdly. I am not getting any sense of emotional contagion – I am just seeing the faces emote in a sense that I can’t understand. Maybe its too fast…There doesn’t seem to be a rhythm. How do we make it more explicit?

I think the way that we have to work with it is looking a pacing and weighting of certain personalities. Some overdrive others. Also weightings and pace of each emotional response. We are going on meet Thursday at 11am in London to discuss the next stage of the project.

Evan says that closer analysis of how the people effect each other is necessary, because its so complicated. He knows they are spreading emotions to one another, but we’d have to play with this a bit to get some optimal values. because there are so many variables involved, we’d have to look at how to add some controls for changing the percentages (each emotional state has a list of possible emotions it can go to, with percentages… there would be about 50 sliders in all if we simple added controls for all).

In Banff, at the Liminal Screen residency at the Banff New Media Institue – I was asked a question – what if you can’t map emotional contagion. Good question – what if we can’t? What if we are making it all up – maybe it is too complex. Maybe we have to relook at how I am thinking about these emotional algorithms. Anyway, all will be clear on Thursday when we meet.

post reading/looking

March 17th, 2008

Bas Jan Ader/ I am too sad to tell you.


I’m Too Sad To Tell You (1971) is a three minute and twenty one second video of the artist, Bas Jan Ader, inexplicably crying. The fact that we’re not told why he’s crying puts our own reaction to the work on very shaky ground. Generally, it’s the audience that’s supposed to weep in front of artworks, not the other way around.
Bas Jan Ader practiced a romantic kind of conceptual art which involved ideas of falling, failure, sadness, and the sublime, among other things. His last project, part of a three part work entitled In Search Of The Miraculous, involved a sailboat trip from Cape Cod to England in July of 1975. He lost radio contact three weeks into the trip and wasn’t heard from again. Less than a year later his body was found off the coast of Ireland.
I’m Too Sad To Tell You is part of an exhibition of currently showing at Perry Rubinstein Gallery in New York. It’s up through the 22nd of December.

Legend of the fall – photographer Bas Jan Ader
ArtForum, March, 1999 by Bruce Hainley

The artist is crying and too sad to tell anyone why. A postcard with the dated note – “Sept. 13 1970. I’m too sad to tell you.” – shows Bas Jan Ader racked by tears. Whatever caused the tears to flow (the artist never publicly stated the reason) is ultimately beside the point. And yet Ader reenacted his private sadness, restaged it, photographed it to mail to others. While his piece retains a “real” sadness, it keeps vital the artifice and melodrama inherent in placing himself before his own camera while crying. Almost all of Ader’s work pulsates with a crisis of some personal intensity. His sincerity is sincere – until it’s not only sincere. Certainly connections exist between the postcard’s sad note and the ominous and purely theatrical qualities of some of his early, simple wall texts (“Please don’t leave me”; “Thoughts unsaid then forgotten”) and carefully chosen titles, like Farewell to Faraway Friends, a photograph of a lone Ader standing on the coast, framed by the setting sun on the horizon – a photo whose sincerity is toyed with by the kitschy, touristy “sunset” colors. To look at this another way, consider for a moment: If I told you that during the month I’ve been thinking about Ader I cried several times, and that I’m crying right now, would you buy it?

Ingres’s Comtesse d’Haussonville





19th century neurologist who worked with electricity to stimulate/simulate emotion. Also published a collection of photographs (new technology at the time) where he created a database of images documenting his electrical experiments on the facial muscles and the emotional states it rendered.

Gary Hill – Tall Ships



Acconci’s interest have been persistently psychological and interactive. Pushes viewers mentally and sometimes physically into situations they might preferably avoid. face to face with primal emotions/childhood memories – either his own or theirs. Initially personal to the point of exhibitionism, his early work often exposed his body and his innermost thoughts – a kind of stream-of-consciousness monologue. an artist more interested in process than the final product. creates a laboratory full of apparatuses that test one’s tolerance for varying degrees of confinement and action, for intimacy with oneself or the artist.

Vito Acconci – Three Relationship Studies, Vito Acconci, video still, courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix


Intensely personal, the films document a range of physical and psychological explorations of the self in relation to others, ones own body, and the film/video camera.


Vito Acconci, Gargle/Spit Piece 1970, 3 min, color, silent, Super 8 film

The artist, sitting naked, takes water from a pot into his mouth and gargles; he spits it out onto his stomach and groin, transferring the water from one “container” (the pot) to another (his body).

Face to Face Vito Acconci 1972, 15 min, color, silent, Super 8 film


In this exercise in nonverbal communication, Acconci explores facial expressions, and their psychological resonance, as a mode of performance narrative.

Abramovic, Marina; Ulay


In a given space
We kneel, face to face. Our faces are lit by two strong lamps. Alternately, we slap each other’s face until one of us stops

“Trying to make theatre out of a kind of performance art that involves testing the limits of physical and men tal resistance raises special problems. One of Abramovic’s most famous performances is Light/Dark, in which she and Ulay slapped each others’ faces, increasing in speed till they could go no faster. Laub decided to “serialise” it by using several couples. “The difference between performance art and, say, repertory theatre, is that when Marina and Ulay decided to do something as strictly physical as slapping each other in the face for 20 minutes, they didn’t really care if they ended up in hospital the next day, because they were very committed and they didn’t have to reproduce the piece,” he said. “It’s sort of hard as a director to ask these young people to rehearse that.” He had managed, he said, “by apologising a lot”. And maintaining a stock of ice packs. A book on the making of The Biography Remix includes a photograph of one performer on her back at the end of a rehearsal with ice packs on one knee and the side of her face.”

Marina Abramovic & Ulay. Imponderabilia, 1977


Marina y Ulay. Performance “El grito”
Imagen de video


A scene from The Biography Remix by Marina Abramovic


Bruce Nauman’s installation of three fountain sculptures


b from Studies for Holograms (a-e) (1970)

post to chase up – from paula levine

March 16th, 2008

Hi Tina,

Here are the references I mentioned:
1. Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne –
19th century neurologist who worked with electricity to stimulate/simulate emotion. Also published a collection of photographs (new technology at the time) where he created a database of images documenting his electrical experiments on the facial muscles and the emotional states it rendered.

2. Jean-Martin Charcot (who was influenced by the work of Duchenne and who, in turn, influenced Freud in his early exploration of hypnosis and hysteria) ran the Paris Salpêtrière asylum and held public theatres of hysteria for guests where inmates, mostly women, would have hysterical fits. There’s a lot of writing on this, particularly in relationship to the history of women and hysteria. He and a photographer colleague created a large archive of images of hysterics. One particular woman was popular because of her ability to have hysterical fits on cue — her name I think was Augustine. If I remember correctly, she escaped the asylum by dressing as a man and was never seen or heard from again…

Martin Charcot

jean-martin charcot’s photograph of augustine in ecstasy


3. You mentioned Eadweard Muybridge. I know of his work with animal and human locomotion but not with photographing emotion. However he was amazingly productive so…


4. Dr. Jose Delgado from Yale and his early work with electrical stimuli and a charging bull.


post affect theory

March 5th, 2008

Filed under: CHAMELEON PROJECT,working on conceptual threads — Tina @ 3:59 am

nine affects, listed with a low/high intensity label for each affect and accompanied by its biological expression

Enjoyment/Joy – smiling, lips wide and out
Interest/Excitement – eyebrows down, eyes tracking, eyes looking, closer listening

Surprise/Startle – eyebrows up, eyes blinking

Anger/Rage – frowning, a clenched jaw, a red face
Disgust – the lower lip raised and protruded, head forward and down
Dissmell (reaction to bad smell) – upper lip raised, head pulled back
Distress/Anguish – crying, rhythmic sobbing, arched eyebrows, mouth lowered
Fear/Terror – a frozen stare, a pale face, coldness, sweat, erect hair
Shame/Humiliation – eyes lowered, the head down and averted, blushing

post The relationship between social cognition and emotion

March 4th, 2008

The relationship between social cognition and emotion
Chair: Kevin N. Ochsner, Columbia University
Speakers: Daniela Schiller and Elizabeth Phelps, Jennifer S. Beer, Christian Keysers, Kevin N. Ochsner
Summary: It has been said that humans are the Social Animal, and that what sets us apart from other species is the complexity of our social relationships and the culture it makes possible. To understand the neural mechanisms underlying these social abilities, recent functional imaging work has attempted to clarify the neural mechanisms underlying various socially-relevant behaviors, ranging from person perception to self-regulation, empathy and imitation. Despite mounting evidence that that the neural bases of social cognition are quite similar to those of emotion, little work has attempted to explain what this similarity might mean. Each talk in this symposium will shed light on this issue. Two talks (Schiller & Phelps, Beer) will show that brain systems typically associated with emotion – the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex – are essential for person perception, because targets for social judgments – including ourselves – have affective relevance. Two other talks (Keysers, Ochsner) will show that interactions among regions involved in motor control, affect, and mental state attribution underlie our tendency to take on the emotions of others and empathize with them. Taken together, these talks suggest that social cognition and emotion share common mechanisms that interact to support social behavior in multiple contexts.

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