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Title: THE PHYSIOGNOMIC (UN)GENRE: Challenges of Automated Facial Expression Analysis-Based Media Art to both the Art and Science of Face
Authors: Schiller, Devon
Keywords: Automated Facial Expression Analysis (AFEA)
Facial Action Coding System (FACS)
quantifiable self
science of facial expression
Issue Date: 18-Oct-2017
Abstract: As 9/11, Facebook, and WikiLeaks level events forever change the media climate, the past-perfect promise of a newest harnessed methodology for face datafication and emotions computability inspires in the cultural imaginary an unparalleled–if not unprecedented–‘physiognomic frenzy.’ To tactically critique this ‘face of the age,’ media artists increasingly utilize as both medium and subject Automated Facial Expression Analysis (AFEA). Yet, these proprietary closed-source algorithms, introduced by technological industry and expert science, are black box frameworks that veil program functionality input from available data output. That is, neither artist nor audience can see the way they work, including the very ‘electronic mugbooks’ and Facial Action Coding System that train the algorithm. Consequently, each media artist invents their method ex novo, uninformed of its intermedial genealogies from the contemporary science of facial expression as well as the historical art of physiognomy. Thus, these artists often significantly misrepresent the very science about face they explicitly claim to question. Historians of media art fail to trace essential correspondences in operationalized aesthetic and visual rhetoric between AFEA-based media artworks. And data affordances from media art to face science are artificially constrained. Through a scientific connoisseurship of in-the-field training and targeted interviews, I probe artworks by Julius von Bismarck, Paolo Cirio and Ludovico, Ishiguro, Lev Manovich, and Marnix de Nijs. Proposing what I call a "physiognomic genre," that bridges database, hactivist, installation, net, and robotics art, I problematize how media artists reflect today’s face literacies and emotional competencies–how we 'think' about what we 'feel.'
Description: Biography: Devon Schiller, born in Boston and living in Vienna, is a Member of the Academic Staff in the Department of Image Science at Danube University, Austria, where he also pursues an MA in MediaArtHistories. He holds a BFA in Art History and Painting from the Kansas City Art Institute, and is an alumnus of the Conservation Program at the Studio Art College International, Florence, Italy. He also certificate trained in the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) at the University of Berkeley as well as the Neuropsychological Gesture Coding System (NEUROGES) at the German Sports University Cologne From a theoretical framework of cognitive semiotics, emotions history, and image science, Schiller’s scholarship focuses on the intermedial genealogies between the art of physiognomy, science of facial expression, and digital biometrics. He analyzes how artists and scientists use media prosthetics to interpret from the outside physiological behavior of the face the psychological phenomena inside an individual; the visual rhetoric of these methodologies; and how face images can inform display rules, social scripting, and truth claims for emotion in society. Schiller is also an internationally exhibited artist.
Appears in Collections:1. Re:Trace Conference - Keynotes, Papers & Posters

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