A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

Month: July 2006 Page 2 of 3

Body Tricks

Definitely not gestures by any definition I would use, but these body tricks are nice nevertheless.

Does your brain ever itch too?

I tend to categorize movement into gesture, fidgeting, practical actions, and moving around. Some things resist labeling however. Should more or less unvoluntary body language, like laughing or blushing, be considered as intended to communicate? If so, then a lot of animal body language should be included too. Is there another criterium at work?

And where do these body tricks go? The way it is presented points the way. The body is treated as an instrument. If you handle it correctly you can achieve a set goal. Ergo, they are practical actions. Any contenders?

John Dory, a Fish Born to Gesture?

There are many fish in the sea. And when divers come to admire them, it may not just be the divers that gesture. There are some sea creatures, like octopi, squids and cuttlefish that signal through colour changes. Or they blow themselves up in response to perceived threats, like terrorists pufferfish.

But I once heard a very nice story
About a gesturing fish named John Dory
Who when faced with his fate
Goes head on, stays straight
Then flashes his evil eye to thee

I’ve got my eye on you, friend.

Thanks to EA for the links above and below and the following anecdote: When you get near a John Dory he will first face you directly, perhaps hoping you cannot see him because he is so thin. If you come closer still he turns and displays the extra eye on its flank, pretending he is a big fish. It’s a clear signal to bystanders: “Bugger off”.

But beware: “Compared with the variety of human responses, however, that of a fish is stereotyped, not subject to much modification by “thought” or learning, and investigators must guard against anthropomorphic interpretations of fish behaviour.” (but then again, these image scoring fish appear none too backward)

john-dory-fish-born-to-gesture

There are many fish in the sea. And when divers come to admire them, it may not just be the divers that gesture. There are some, like octopi, squids and cuttlefish that signal through colour changes. Or they blow themselves up in response to perceived threats, like terrorists pufferfish.

But I once heard a very nice story
About a gesturing fish named John Dory
Who when faced with his fate
Goes head on, stays straight
Then flashes his evil eye to thee

I’ve got my eye on you, friend.

Thanks to EA for the links above and below and the following anecdote: When you get near a John Dory he will first face you directly, perhaps hoping you cannot see him because he is so thin. If you come closer still he turns and displays the extra eye on its flank, pretending he is a big fish. It’s a clear signal to bystanders: “Bugger off”.

But beware: “Compared with the variety of human responses, however, that of a fish is stereotyped, not subject to much modification by “thought” or learning, and investigators must guard against anthropomorphic interpretations of fish behaviour.” (but then again, these image scoring fish appear none too backward).

Is An Octopus’s Signal in his Shade?

Behold the Octopus. The James Bond of the sea. Ringo Starr once wrote:

I’d like to be
Under the sea
In an Octopus’s garden
In the shade

They pinned a romantic story on him about Octopi being aesthetic collectors. But an Octopus’s garden is no more than the leftovers, the bones, spines and shells, outside a den. Of course, a true romantic could counter that an Octopus picks aesthetic food…

The question I would ask is: does an octopus gesture? First, let us say that the term gesture originated in the distinction between voice and gesture, or oralité et gestualité as the French would say. The pair together refer to our total of communication means. It functions as a rough division of all the ways in which we create meaning for eachother. Since an octopus does not talk we could say that all his signaling behaviour falls under gesture. But that would be a fairly useless statement, unless we add that gesture is reserved to behaviour that is intended to communicate.


Make my day, punk.

At fUSION Anomaly, some gladly accept the linguistic status of the Octopus’s signaling. They even feel it is superior to our own language, which as we all know is strictly limited to our tiny mouths.

What do they do exactly? They change colour and texture (see explanation of chromatophores), they may use polarization of light. But why? Often the colour and texture changes are camouflage, but chey can also indicate arousal and/or threat.

I find it all rather amazing. But then I saw what cuttlefish can do…

Aymara Proof of Universal Truth: Humans have no Eyes in their Backs

A scientific finding (Nunez & Sweetser 2006, pdf) about Aymara is catching the news (more, Dutch): The Aymara people refer, in their words and their gestures, to the past as though it were before them, and to the future as though it were behind them.

Did he see it before him with his own eyes? Is that where the gesture comes from?

A nice analysis at physorg and interesting comments (more) suggests that the uniqueness of the Aymara way is exaggerated (there are many other occasions where the past is put in front and the future in the back). It is also stated that the finding is not new, as it has been described before in this book. A further complication is that the Aymara mark whether they were an eye-witness to an event or just heard about it.

The writers of the original article appear to be aware of these things. Their main contribution seems to be that gestural and spoken data support each other in this case and that they should always be looked at together in similar studies.

The authors do say that besides Aymara “so far all documented language appear to share a spatial metaphor mapping future events onto spatial locations in front of ego and past events onto locations behind ego”. Well, I can not find it on the list of human universals and they provide no reference. Let’s face it, it smells a bit like a strawman. But for the greater good of protecting the Aymara heritage and Earths cultural riches I am sure we can all put such petty criticisms behind us.

I will end by saying: Aruskipasipxañanakasakipunirakispawa [?]

The Scoff, the Insult and the Headbutt

None of it’s good. It’s all bad and ugly. Zidane headbutted Materazzi (see video if they are not removed), after they exchanged words and gestures.


How often have you wanted to do this to MM?

It was a shamefull spectacle in the ending minutes of the world cup final. And now expert lip readers, you, me, and Everymen try to guess what happened exactly. Materazzi admits an insult, but regards Zidane‘s behaviour as offensive as well: “.. he turned to me, looked at me from top to bottom with utmost arrogance”.

Looking someone up and down is often seen as a form of sexual harrasment (here, here and here) if a man does it to a woman. I think it’s more likely Zidane was looking down his nose at Materazzi, a display of contempt. As in ‘the arrogant hot-blooded maestro looked down his nose at the barbaric uncultured wannabee’.

Update: When Zidane said “you can have my shirt later if you want it that bad” Materazzi replied “I’d rather have your sister”. That set Zidane off.

What Lies Beyond Poking

They may not want to call it a gesture interface, but it is definitely a cool demo. Mister Han presents: the Multi-Touch Interaction Research project.


Trust me: Sit back and enjoy for 3 minutes

Touch me, feel me
Poke me, love me

Apparently this was made possible by the FTIR (frustrated total internal reflection) sensing technique…

Once Were Baboons?

Our proud human race…

After the SLP more or less banned the topic from linguistic study in 1866, work published since the 1970’s on gesture and (sign) language, action recognition (and mirror neurons) made it once again the scientific wild west: the (Gestural) Origins of Language.

So, now in the news: Researchers Meguerditchian and Vauclair studied 60 captive baboons and especially a gesture of quick, repetitive rubbing or slapping on the ground, apparently to threaten or intimidate. More importantly, it appears to be lateralized (they use their right hand, thus their left hemisphere of the brain- here there be language centers).


You talking to me? You talkin’ to me?!

A simplified sum of the arguments: Baboons gesture (mostly) right, chimps gesture right, children gesture right. In the brain language is left (connected to right hand). Gesture is part of language. We all come from the same ancestors. Humans must have kickstarted communication through gestures as well. The vocals, rude at first as a monkey’s cries, accompanied the gestures at first but became sophisticated and dominant later. Solid as a rock.

I think I should finally read that Jackendoff book on the foundations of language. No linguist can take a gesture guy serious without some of the essential baggage.

Sporting Gestures

A noisy stadium packed with supporters, groups of players on a spacious field, coaches on the sideline, and a referee. Sports provide a perfect blend of ingredients for a banquet of gestures.


Has modern dramatic action theatre discarded words?


Or was it no different in classical times?

News today: Darren Lehmann, a cricket player, was reprimanded for an obscene gesture to the crowd (not unlike this basketball player). But what did he do exactly? The web is silent, but perhaps you know?

Offensive Winker Christiano Ronaldo

It must be a coincidence, but here I am writing a third entry involving a world cup match with Portugal. First about Rooney’s intentions regarding Carvalho (against UK), then about a gesture from Figo (against France). Now, on request, let us return to the Rooney incident and discuss Ronaldo’s gestures after the incident. So, here is more exact footage:


What did Ronaldo have to say to Rooney before the game?


After winking to someone he shushes with his mouth.

C. Ronaldo’s behaviour during the world cup earned him a dungpile of UK abuse. How much of that is envy or looking for a scapegoat I will gladly leave to others.

The wink is easily understood: it refers to more or less secret mutual understanding. The shushing or hush up mouth gesture confirms that. Given the immediate connection to the Rooney incident we can safely assume that Ronaldo & Co shared some ideas before the match which have bearing on it.

Now we enter the realm of speculation. Did they set up Rooney, driving him into a case of intermittent explosive disorder? Or did they merely talk about Rooney’s temperament and found it confirmed by his deliberate attack on Carvalho’s manhood? What were their intentions? To play a malicious plot or to play fair but not foolish? Of one thing, and only one thing, we can be sure. They wanted to win. They won. Period.

Page 2 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén