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post Emotional Contagion at the Dana Center, Science Museum

February 15th, 2008

Dana Event over – went well – was sold out. Was frustrating as I had Matt and Pablo there (I wanted Pablo to be part of the experiment, and they wouldn’t let him in because he was underage and alcohol was being served..). Poor Matt. I had primed him to document the evening with video and cameras and he ended up sitting upstairs with Pablo, not taking part in the evening.

A lot of interest from media. I started with just showing the current version of the prototype. Its pretty simple, needs more work, but it has a nice energy about it. Need to reshoot database.

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Chameleon Stage one (still of projected images – interaction using emotional algorithms)

I gave a ten minute talk, about past work, why I am here, what lead to project, where the project is at, where the project is going. Neil talked about emotional contagion, studies in empathy and mimicry, the biological mechanisms. Harry then talked for ten minutes – in an engaging, involving way – In his talk, he talked a lot about big brother (he was the medical advice on “On the Couch with Big Brother” – also a lot about how to pick deceit and lying. How to pick up on the micro expressions. All tlaks were engaging, talked about emotional contagion, social cognition from different view points. Good mix.

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Harry Witchell, Neil Harrison (with the yellow badges on)

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After the talks we then set up the live experiment which was pretty simple. We had two cameras facing each two members of the audience facing each other. We split the group with members who knew each other and members who didn’t. Evan Raskob was upstairs controlling the event –setting it up, making sure it all worked. Evan also directed the conversation – some were to talk about their mother, some were to talk about the weather. It would have been nice to read more into the imagery – I think its sort of about the pacing – two people didn’t really tell us enough about emotional contagion. I need to make a decision on whether we create a piece that I originally wanted to – working with six web cams – slowing down – out put to video. It’s a lot more investment of time and also buying cameras, cables, hubs, etc.

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Evan Raskob

Interestingly, I found what was happening upstairs was much morei nteresting than downstairs. The set up.. the awkward nature of it, people desperately trying to make polite conversation. If we did it again, I would get a few stooges in there – to either entice them, or to act bored, or what ever. It would be good to show the piece again. Maybe in Banff.

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It was a good beginning. Harry Witchell was great –talking about how people synchronised, how people didn’t – who was driving the conversations. Who was following. Were they interested? The subtle bits of body language. It didn’t really talk too muh about micro expressions, but probably has much to do with the quality of the image – to keep the stress off the computer, we had to make it pretty low resolution.

Helen from SCAN cancelled at the last minute – she was going to speak about science and art collaborations, etc. Was disappointing that she wasn’t there as I was the only one from the collaborative group present. Hugo is having a baby, Chris is in Denmark, Rana in Egypt. But we pulled it off, and finished the night saying that we will be back next season to show the next stage of the prototype. I will start organising timings as it would be great if everyone was close by this time.

There seemed to be great interesting in the idea of emotional contagion. A lot of questions. I talked to quite a few psychologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists in the audience. Apparently it was in the Metro which is ashame, because I missed it. Now have to chase it up. Will ring them today.

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