DECONSTRUCTING AND RECONSTRUCTING EMOTION
FEAR, GREED AND A PINK TROMBONE
produced by: Hannah Corrie, Owen Planchart and Joshua Windsor
Through this research project we aimed to bring together affective computing, cryptocurrencies and the sonification of data into a cohesive and interactive artefact. We wanted to see if it was possible to design a system that could take collective emotional data and convert it into an individual emotional response. During this investigative process we conducted research by interviewing relevant professionals, reading journals and texts on these subjects. We settled on the idea of using the cryptocurrency fear and greed index as our data set due to its volatility, computational nature and the intensity of emotion involved. Where emotions are involved, data visualisation is able to describe the quantities measured, but falls short at conveying the qualities that make up the emotion itself. The medium is not congruent with the message.
Affective computing as defined by Rosalind Picard is “any computational process that arises from, or directly influences emotions.” We conducted user testing to explore a range of sounds that would be evocative of fear and greed, some being taken from film, music and popular culture before settling on an Interactive voice synthesizer called the Pink Trombone, created by Niel Thappen. This tool creates guttural sounds that are reminiscent of a proto-language, using very simple moans and grunts to express basic emotional states. The notion that the sound of the human voice, without content, is the perfect vehicle for eliciting an emotional reaction was a recurring theme throughout our research.
We visited Brighton University to meet with Professor Kelly Snook who has a background in aerospace engineering, audio engineering and data sonification. Poignantly she said that "it’s not about sonifying emotion, but about sonifying reality in a way that gives people access to that emotion”. This went with our early statement of taking emotional data and truncating it into an emotional reaction.
Other research includes interviews included Giles Lane, Atau Tanaka and Nick Phillips. These were supported by a number of influential texts, studies and artworks which have been mentioned in our references and presentation.
Gamification emerged in order to engage people with this piece. Using a wire bender we transformed the different narratives of the crypto market into 3D sculptures reminiscent of buzz wire toys. We explored different pairings of sounds and conducted user testing to judge their effectiveness in conveying the desired emotion.
While making the podcast we experimented with the format in order to reflect our subject matter and treated our own investigative process as data. Inspired by William S Burroughs Cut up technique, we used this data to create a cacophony of voices and soundscapes, that mirrored our collective emotional experience during our research.
To conclude, we are pleased with our choice of data set and feel that using the Pink Trombone voice synthesizer was an interesting output to evoke emotion in the artefact's audience. One problem that arose was that incorporating play into our medium may have contaminated our results. It strayed away from being a vacuum as other emotions began to emerge. This also highlighted the delicate nature of trying to deconstruct and reconstruct human emotion. While we weren’t completely successful in our outcome, the fact that our final artefact used primitive sounds to describe the sentiments involved in a hyper-modern computational process, seems to point at the relevance and overriding nature of emotional states in all human activity. We think that this is a relevant research topic and one worthy of further exploration.
Ambady, N., Laplante, D., Nguyen, T., Rosenthal, R., Chaumeton, N. and Levinson, W. (2002). Surgeons’ tone of voice: a clue to malpractice history. Surgery,
Catlow, R., Garrett, M., Jones, N. and Skinner, S. (2017). Artists re:thinking the blockchain. England: Torque Editions ;
Fox, J. (2015). From “Economic Man” to Behavioral Economics. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2015/05/from-economic-man-to-behavioral-economics.
Gladwell, M. (2013). Blink : the power of thinking without thinking. New York: Back Bay Books.
Kemper, S. and Cypess, R. (2019). Can Musical Machines Be Expressive? Views from the Enlightenment and Today. Leonardo, 52(5), pp.448–454.
Picard, R.W. (2000). Affective Computing. Cambridge, Massachusetts Etc.: Mit Press.
van ’t Klooster, A. (2018). Creating Emotion-Sensitive Interactive Artworks: Three Case Studies. Leonardo, 51(03), pp.239–245.
Snook, K. and Potts, J. (2018). Concordia A New Future Economy of Music. SSRN Electronic Journal.
Woolgar, S. and Suchman, L.A. (1989). Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human Machine Communication. Contemporary Sociology, 18(3), p.414
Pink Trombone: https://dood.al/pinktrombone/
Fear and Greed Index: https://alternative.me/crypto/fear-and-greed-index/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS4Bpr2BgnE - Sun Yuan and Peng Yu: Can’t Help Myself
https://vimeo.com/133428328 - what do machines sing of Martin Backes
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UE7eSN63N7Y - Pierre Bastien