(Mis)Reading Human Emotions

(Mis)Reading Human Emotions
© Lena Ziyal

Sat, 13.11.2021 6:30 PM


Language: English
This event will take place on Zoom

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Progress in the field of AI frequently leads to the false assumption that it will soon be possible to “read” all human emotions, for example through (allegedly) error-free recording and interpretation of the human voice or from facial expressions. It is said that in future algorithmic decoding systems will evaluate job applicants, make border control easier, detect lies told by criminals in legal proceedings, enable advertising to be more attractive and diagnose diseases like dementia or depression. The principles on which the research for the development of this technology is founded are as controversial as the fields of application themselves. Even now the field studies by US psychologist Paul Ekman conducted in the 1960s and 1970s are used, which are based on the premise that emotional expression is universal. In this panel we discuss the dangers of assuming that everyone’s face serves as a legible oracle of emotions, as well as a capacity to influence people derived from this. With psychological research in the field of emotions as a starting point, the panel presents some artistic and playful interventions with the aim of fostering a public understanding of facial and emotional recognition systems.

The panel is in English.

Speakers: Alexa Hagerty, anthropologist and STS researcher, University of Cambridge; Jessica L. Tracy, Professor of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver; Mushon Zer-Aviv, designer and media activist, New York and Tel Aviv
Moderation: Devon Schiller, cultural semiotician, Austrian Academy of Sciences and University of Vienna

Alexa Hagerty is an anthropologist and researcher in the field of science, technology and society studies (STS) at the University of Cambridge, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence und Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. In her research she looks at the social impact of AI/ML systems using ethnographic, participative and art-based methods. In collaboration with other researchers at Cambridge University and UCL she developed a game that demonstrates how computers can scan facial expressions to detect emotions.

Jessica L. Tracy is Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Her work is currently funded by a scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). She is a social and personal psychologist, as well as an emotion researcher. Her work primarily focuses on emotions, non-verbal emotional expression and the emotions of pride and shame.

Mushon Zer-Aviv lives in Tel Aviv and New York as a designer, lecturer and media activist. His works and texts investigate how the interfaces of technological culture are reshaping politics, design and networks. He is an honorary resident at the Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in Brooklyn, NY and teaches digital media as a senior faculty member at the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design. His interactive art installation The Normalizing Machine – developed with programmers Dan Stavy and Eran Weissenstern – questions our visual perception of social normality on the basis of portrait photos.

Devon Schiller is a culture semiotician and media historian. He is recipient of a DOC scholarship awarded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences and is currently doing a PhD at the Department of English and American Studies within the Faculty of Philology and Cultural Studies at Vienna University. His research focus is biometric art, which draws on facial recognition and the semiotic temporality of facial behaviour.