MAS 965 : Social Visualizations
Tripti Gore Chandorkar

Assignment 9 : The Face

Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray , is based on the notion that as people age, their face reflects the type of life they have lived. In this story, Dorian Gray possesses a portrait that ages instead - Dorian remains ever youthful, while the portrait, which he keeps hidden away, displays his cruelty and excess. Sketch an interface for a system in which user's history was etched in faces. Useful scenarios to ground your work might be reputation systems such as ebay or conversation systems such as slashdot. What information would you depict with this face? How would it "age"?

The following series of symbolic facial images could be incorporated for representing members in a reputation based system like ebay or For the purpose of maintaining anonymity and gender/race/color 'less' online environment, I have chosen to draw very generic facial symbols that do not pick on any of these biases. The rating of each seller changes as s/he accumulates feedback (positive as well as negative) from the buyers. The system will make changes to the face according to these ratings over time. One thing I found difficult to visualize and could not is 'quality' or positive rating. It was easier to visualize negative ratings.

What is the difference between the "emotion view" of the face and the "evolution view"? What are the implications of each standpoint for the use of the face as input? As output?

According to the ‘emotion view', facial expressions provide the key to people's feelings. Ekman, who is a proponent of this theory, linked expressions to a group of basic emotions. But recent research in psychological studies challenges that theory (particularly Fridland's work) by saying that there is no direct one – to- one link between human emotions and expressions. There is an emerging theory as a result of this conflict that suggests that facial expressions cannot be the ‘gold standard' for judging emotions and that they are just one component of human emotions. The ‘emotion view' states that the emotions trigger certain electrical impulses through the brain that trigger the appropriate facial expressions and other physiological changes. Facial expressions evolved in humans, as signals about one's emotions to others– be it anger, happiness, sadness etc. This theory suggests that the facial expressions have been used as signals that are useful to the receivers to react appropriately. ‘Emotion View' considers expressions as universal. In such a view, how can we account for different expressions for the same feelings in different cultures?

The ‘evolution view', advocated by Fridland, looks at facial expressions as tools used by the signaler to get the desired responses from perceivers. He says expressions are more social messages that evolved over time based on mutual survival, serving social motives and social cognition. According to this theory, expressions are inherently social and are always as a result of an actual or imagined interaction with others.

These contradictory views in facial expression have serious implications on the research in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) where facial signals are coded for appropriate expression input that results in an output from the computer that is dependent on this input. If facial signals were not directly linked to emotions (evolution view) then the input would be an inappropriate representation of the underlying emotion. Current research in HCI attempts to encode 44 facial action units of human emotion as input. But keeping in mind the ‘evolution view', it would be erroneous to assume the universality of these emotions across different cultures and races. Also according to the same view, facial expressions are context-dependent in a social interaction. A facial expression can have different meanings in different social contexts. Facial expressions not only provide semantic and syntactic support of what the user is saying, they also help in getting the appropriate response from the listener (it would be a computer in this case) for the conversation to continue. Keeping these facts in mind it is important that the facial encoding of users is rooted in the context, for an enjoyable, close to ‘natural' human-computer interaction.