Breaking Bad Habits

LuciaRos_Sunday_BreakingBadHabits (19)

Utopia is a state vanished about 100 years ago, at least as far as we speak about pure, direct and honest advertisement and media and their relationship with the audiences. Media manipulation began to intensify with the implementation of psychoanalytical approaches by Sigmund Freud´s nephew Edward Bernays – those interested can check his methods in his book “Propaganda” – and is getting increasingly radical with every new technological tool.

Those tools, their usability in regard to filmmaking and their connection with recent scientific research were the topics of a workshop led by the media artist and filmmaker Synes Elischka. For his PhD project he is researching the structures of immersion, which could be defined as the levels of engagement of audiences into a film or other media, up to the point of forgetting the environment around us. Scholars currently make a differentiation between three ways of immersion: a physical, recognizing the different technological approaches to storytelling;  an emotional, building up a narrative identification with the characters as well as incorporating the rules of a particular storytelling structure; and a cognitive, the intentional active involvement of the audience into completing story gaps, cracking mysteries which should be a task that is not boring but also not emerging rejection. To sum it up and hereby allegorize Fritz Lang: to make a really persuasive media product one needs to combine the hand(craft), the brain and the heart. Neuroscience and similar fields of science are in general widely concerned with the topic of perception. Research was recently supplemented with the discovery of so called mirrorneurons. These send the same signals to the brain, regardless if we personally apply an action or just watch somebody realizing the same action.

Among the new tools that translate this knowledge into practical work two measuring devices were presented. Cinemetrics, a computer-generated film data visualisation tool, measures the intensity of individual units of films, whereas gaze tracking measures what people pay attention to when they are watching visual media. With the help of other tools artists can also enhance the already inherent illusionistic character of moving images. One of the processes available to merge the physical and the virtual world together is mapping, where the precise photographic copy of a surface, for example a building, is projected over that surface to allow animated manipulations of the texture. Another process is augmented reality, which is the implementation of an interactive holographic or other virtual environment into the physical world, realized for example with the help of Kinect. But the possibilities seem endless and the development of new tools or the restructuring of old ones is a constant work in progress. Two good examples of that are the reuse of EEG devices as multimedia tools and the development of the Google Glass project.

With the potentials of the new technologies comes the danger that a primarily good idea could get corrupted, as far as it is suitable to call persuasion tools a good idea. Anyhow, Orwell would have fun in commenting on the current state of society.

by Miha Veingerl

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