A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

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

Month: August 2006

All Blacks Never Slit Throats

The controversial new Haka Kapa o Pango of the All Blacks has a new ending. Apparently they no longer threaten to slit the throats of their opponents. Yet they insist they didn’t change it. Captain Richie McCaw claims that the gesture has in fact always meant ‘drawing air into the lungs’ rather than a throat-cutting threat.

A breathtaking sight of young lads filling their lungs

Utter nonsense of course, everyone in their right mind saw it for what it was. If they manage to keep their little white lie going it will however be a nice way for everyone to save face.

Good preview of Xbox Gesture Games

Thank you Frank Cifaldi of Gamasutra for this 6-page review of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Live Vision Camera Technology, the Totemball game (including a demo movie), and GestureTek’s technology behind it.


Is this a dagger I see before me?

A Smack and a Little Pointing in the Right Direction

Some AppleGeeks can now smack their loved ones if they want them to change into something else. Just install Smackbook Pro and start whacking.

If you feel this is unjust treatment of sensitive machinery, you could try some pointing in the right direction. Just watch how fast she will turn around and do your bidding.

Thousand-hand Guanyin dance

This 1000-handed Bodhisattva (or Guanyin) dance was performed by hearing-impaired young ladies. It is a captivating sight and warmly recommended.

Wanna read more about their group?

The Perception of Insults

Am I being insulted or not? Did you ever wonder whether someone was making a rude gesture at you? But it could also be nothing, just a coincidence?

I think such situations can easily occur. People can camouflage their insults, for example by scratching their arm while giving an Italian salute (forbidden in Malta I heard?). This can be used to hide to insult from certain onlookers and to avoid repercussions. You just say you didn’t do anything. On the other hand, people may be too sensitive, taking offense when none was intended.

Is this cactus giving the finger? (source Izix.com)

In Riverton, Utah (USA) a painting on the side of a house looked like a hand giving the finger but it could also be an abstract cactus. Is this a camouflaged insult or a case of extreme sensitivity? Perhaps even both. Because his neighbours are so sensitive, mr. Wood effectively manages to insult them and deny it to anyone else. (Update 24-08: After enormous media attention the rude cactus is now going away)

Is that a cactus?

In remote village Crow Edge (UK) an old man sitting outside with his injured finger in a bandage was suspected of obscene body language by his neighbours. It took a policeman to settle the matter. It has the smell of smalltown feuds all over it. Though it appears a clear matter of over-sensitivity at first sight, the old man may have taken advantage of his injury. Perhaps he did give his neighbours the finger in such a way that they would understand it. I will never know.

India coach Greg Chappell allegedly gave the finger to angry fans in 2005. The Hindustan Times showed a picture of his finger thrust out of the window of the team bus. But a team spokesman said Chappell had injured his finger during practice and he was just attending to it. He did not gesture at anybody.

When I was 16 a friend of mine (Maurits) thought he would be safe when he gave our history teacher the finger and said ‘look I have a band-aid’. He was wrong. The teacher was not amused.

Note: these mistakes between insults and unintentional movements are in my view very different from cross-cultural gesture mix-up stories (where the same gesture has different meanings in different cultures). The question now is whether there is an intention to communicate or not (and not what the message is).

Xbox 360 Gesture Game TotemBall

News today at Gamasutra: When Microsoft launches the sale of the Xbox Live Vision video camera accessory for the Xbox 360, they will include the gesture-based game TotemBall for free. It sounds very much like the ‘Eye-Toy Play’ package of Sony which included a whole pack of small games and exercises.

A preview? (source Gamasutra)

The Social Significance of Fidgeting

Do we fidget only for ourselves or also for others? I think fidgeting is primarily regarded as something that we do for ourselves. Erving Goffman and Adam Kendon, two fine researchers of social interactions, discuss fidgeting as something that is generally disattended (not noticed). So why would anyone bother to fidget for someone else? Yet, from what I observed the last two years I get a hunch we do fidget for others now and then.

Why do we fidget when it is for ourselves? The two important motives are comfort and habit. Rubbing or stroking parts of ourselves can be pleasant. A gentle pull of an earlobe, or a small caress of the neck (disguised as a muscle massage), or a stroke of the lips can feel nice. Under stress this may comfort us. Being creatures of habit we stop to even think about these little ‘creature comfort releases’. Habit can also inforce certain coinciding behaviours. For example, I started rubbing my nose when lost in deep thought when I was about 22 (I think) and now I probably always will.

I believe humans are actors. We put on a display of being very busy for our bosses and wives (or husbands). We put on an air of striding purposefully to our destinies, however unknown these may be. We wish to hide our idleness or lack of purpose from onlookers. In a society that favours productive and ambitious individuals it pays to do so.

Could it be that fidgeting is part of our armory of theatrical displays? I can find no reason to believe the opposite. It may require social sensitivity and experience to master the art of fidgeting but I think many people learn to use it to their advantage. How does it work? It is quite simple really. We assume others interpret our behaviour in a certain way. We then choose to display the behaviour that will be interpreted in such a way that others will respond the way we want them to. If we do not want to be interfered with we may choose to look busy and briskly hurry along our way.

Is Kiefer Sutherland nervous? Or does he want to look excited but in control of himself?

The human actor may safely assume two things regarding fidgeting: Others will disattend it if they can (it would be impolite of them to notice or comment on my earlobe pulling), and others will think you are nervous, restless or excited. Armed with these insights the actor can fake being nervous or excited, a useful display to gain the trust of others. A more risky assumption is that others will think that you are at least not afraid to comfort yourself. Apparently you are not scared stiff but well enough at ease to do something about your distress. This may be a useful display in situations where you wish to hide your fear. It even cuts both ways because besides the display function the fidgeting can also really comfort you, thereby relieving the fear. So next time you meet a brute in a dark alley, think about rubbing your ear rather than moving away, or stiffening up.

A final assumption can perhaps only be made with regard to people who know you well. If you always scratch your beard when you are thinking hard, you can start to fake thinking hard by scratching your beard. Now tell me honestly, did you ever try to fool people with your fidgeting?

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