What are the upcoming cultural and political implications of gathering affective data on large populations?
In this panel, the next level of face recognition technologies, face expression recognition tools, will be discussed as devices of subcortical scanning. Since Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, it is known that genetically determined aspects of behaviour can be traced through the expression of emotion on the most semantically important surface of our bodies: the face. Over the course of the past decade, we have also witnessed the rise of affective neuroscience and the study of faces as an interface of affect. As a consequence of the intensive study of affect, a variety of software applications that can detect “emotion” have been introduced to public and private use. As we have entered the age of “big data”, what would be the cultural and political implications of gathering affective data on large populations? Can this data be actually used to improve the quality of life or does it become another tool for discrimination or social isolation? We will take a quick look at neuroscientist and emotion theorist Paul Ekman’s highly popularised work on facial expressions, and MIT Media Lab faculty Rosalin Picard’s project Affdex, a webcam based system that detects “the emotional connection between people and brands.” Emotion detection is a free entrance pass to the limbic system that is positioned at the centre of our brains and our lives. What would be the outcome of opening our subcortical neural networks to the corporate networks of power?
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