The emotions we present to the world and those we feel inside may often be very different, in fact our facial expressions act as form of communication and manipulation in social settings, a non-verbal ‘language’. The ability to present the correct expression is an important and evolved tool for gaining sympathy, eliciting love or displaying anger. But would greater inter-subjective understanding be achieved if we had access to the hidden emotions? That question is investigated by the interactive media artwork Enactive Dialectics which is currently in development. The work, which investigates human interaction through an embodied, situated, enactive approach, comprises two ‘treatment’ chairs directly facing each other; these are used to evoke a sense of being a subject in an experiment. Behind each chair a
digitally modelled three-dimensional synthetic face is projected. Inside the chairs are placed a range of biosensors, reading the sitter’s emotional state. The biosensor data then influences the expressions displayed by the synthetic face above each sitter, however this can be switched to display the inner expression of the opposing sitter, enabling them to view their own ‘emotional’ state. This is likely to set up an emotional feedback loop where participants attempt to conceal their own feelings, even to themselves or try to develop a greater empathy for those around them. The ethical implications are clear and care must be taken; the biosensor data only gives part of the story and the representations of the emotions have been authored by the artists. This potentially false feedback then becomes part of the system, raising the question that even if we think we have inside information we still cannot really know how another person is feeling. We cannot even be sure if we ourselves are feeling the way we feel. Through this work we attempt to question how familiar intuitions about personal identity and subjective experience can be re-drawn and experienced with unexpected results through digital mediation, placing the boundary, between self and other, into question in both real and virtual space.
- Ian Holder
Full Text (PDF) p. 1084-1089