Thursday, September 08, 2005

I-F-E-A-R | Controlling emotion in an immersive environment

I love days like these. Lots of stuff to read, blog and get excited about. Take this as an example.

It was only yesterday that I was cogitating on the limitations computer games and virtual environments have to bear. The fact is for all the advances in graphics and gameplay a computer is unable to understand and deliver human emotions. The best that they can achieve is to understand what physical triggers are known to create emotions in people and manipulate them through the use of colour, sound, texture, image, etc. Other than that all a computer knows how to do is generate numbers based on a series of statistics and the collision of polygons and convert them into a visual language that the player can easily understand.

Then (via, as if to confirm my suspicions, along comes Jodie Hancock and her I-F-E-A-R installation, testing the use of infrasound, or sound waves below the range of normal human hearing, to create unease and emotional response in a subject.

© I-F-E-A-R

"I propose to explore aspects of infrasound and their connection to emotion. Infrasound is synonymous with negative emotion, but how well can this emotion be controlled. Is it possible to use infrasound to specify definite emotions?"

The installation involves hooking up the output of a computer running the game Doom 3 and translating it into infrasound waves. These waves are transmitted in a purpose built corridor that guests are asked to walk through. As events take place in the game, different levels of infrasound are generated based on light levels or gunplay. Participants are then asked to fill out a questionaire upon exiting as to whether they felt affected by the low frequencies.

According to her blog the exhibition of her work at Huddersfield University didn't quite get everything that was hoped for.

© I-F-E-A-R

"I came to some bizarre conclusions though some people it didn't affect and not all of these knew what was coming, others it did affect and again these were people that did not know what was coming and others that did. Which seemed wierd as I expected people who knew what was coming to not feel anything but it seemed that they persuaded themselves that they were going to feel something even though they didn't, well they did but it was too mild to have really counted as my intention was to create a feeling of your own emotions so in this it seemed to work."

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