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

Month: February 2007 Page 1 of 2

Ryan Florence arrested over childish gun gesture at Cameron

A young guy called Ryan Florence was arrested today after making a ‘gun gesture’ at English politician David Cameron (see Metro). Strangely enough, he seems not to have been arrested for the gesture. He is charged with possession of cannabis… after they searched his house… (because of what?).

Ryan Florence makes a gun gesture
Boy, did he pick the wrong guy to fake a gun! (source)

It makes me speculate that David Cameron is a sore man, who cannot take the guy’s gesture as lightly as it was probably made and set the police on him. The trouble of being earnest. Anyway, a fellow blogger called Gavin Corder has written an excellent post on the event and the gesture involved. I tend to agree with his analysis that the media have create a hype and a fuss over nothing.

How to create your own anchor-gesture

In remarkable similarity to how to create your own mudra, I just found a nice prescription to create your own gesture to relax you or give you confidence under stress (in this case on the cricket pitch). Why anyone would feel stress in relation to cricket is none of my Dutch concern, but the procedure seems equally valid for mudras, magic spells and now anchors. It’s all between the ears, I guess.

A stressed cricket player makes an anchor gesture? (source)

I just hope cricket will not become a game whereby a bunch of men-boys only enjoy an easy afternoon relaxing. Without the proper stress the competitive edge required for peak performance may vanish?

Is there a gesture in every click?

I have been catching stories in my newsreader where the word ‘gesture’ is used in a way I found hard to understand. A group of people are talking about the gestures that can be seen in people’s internet behaviour or computer usage. Who started this use of the word gesture? I don’t know exactly, but here are some people involved: Steve Gillmor (GestureLab) Doc Searls (weblog) Danny Ayers (Raw) Robert Scoble (Scobleizer) Ayers summarized it nicely:

So here’s my reading of what he’s on about. The gesture as the unit of attention. They are (heavily context-dependent) events. Gestures are just our intentional, directed interactions with the software. These communication acts contain in themselves valuable information. That information could be used to assist the person in their activities (e.g. with predictive search) or it could be used by marketeers, in a way it’s like a very wide broadening of AdSense.

And then there was the GestureBank, which popped up in December 2nd 2005 on ZDNet (by Gillmor). That turned into the AttentionTrust, of which Gillmor is the president (see governance). Their Mission:

1. Empower people to exert greater control over their “attention data,” i.e. any records reflecting what they have paid attention to and what they have ignored. We accomplish this by promoting the principles of user control, by distributing our Attention Recorder, and by supporting the development of other appropriate tools, standards and practices.

2. Educate people about the value of their attention and the importance of attention data. 3. Build a community of individuals and organizations that will guarantee users’ rights to own, move, and exchange their attention data, in a transparent environment that gives users the freedom to decide how their data will be used.

So the term gesture is used in these contexts to refer to any significant action such as sending someone a link, searching for something, reading something, writing something, etc, etc. These things can be recorded and then algorithms should be able to scan this data to enable all sorts of things. Not everyone would agree though, and I think the following comment by Christopher Coulter to this post on Scobleizer captures the criticism neatly:

My my, from ‘attention’ to ‘gesture algorithms’ ¦ the never-ending supply of meaningless buzzwords, keeps on trucking. In the real world, this is called having friends, knowing and caring about them, keeping in touch, and gasp, unconditionally at that, even when they are of no use to you, or can’t help boost your traffic or can’t play your marketing pitch up. Life is not a computer program spitting out info and links in some sort of raw attempt to mimic human emotions. And the ‘gestures’ we send out, might be pure fiction, what we dream them to be, not what they actually are.

All in all, I thought it would be good to keep an eye on these developments. At the very least it will help you filter out the nonsense from the good stuff in your newsreader. And with a single click you can then wave goodbye to it.

Alexander Jensenius’ Musical Gestures

I found a fellow blogger called Alexander Refsum Jensenius who has a nice collection of posts about gestures. His main interest is in Musical Gestures and the technology to capture them. There are also some nice thoughts and pictures regarding the nature of gesture (that I could not resist commenting on). He made a nice illustration of the movement phases of a gesture unit according to Kendon.

Illustration of Kendon's Gesture Phases
Source: ARJ: Action/Gesture Units

And he is also trying to include fidgeting into his ‘movement-flux diagram’. I wonder how far he can get in capturing the movement possibilities in such pictures? Anyway, it is nice to find another PhD-student thinking about similar topics.

Update 24 feb: Jensenius’ site seems to be down, together with the picture, alas.

Van Bommel gives Real the elbow

I am starting to notice a pattern to sportsmen making insulting gestures. Yesterday I watched Dutch football player Van Bommel make a “fuck you”-gesture (twice) with a hand in the crook of the elbow after scoring for Bayern Munich against Real Madrid. A day later he is under attack and vigorously apologizing to fans and the general public.

Van Bommel

Van Bommel’s way of saying “up yours” to “certain Real players, but not Real in general” (source) Desmond Morris (1979) included this ‘forearm jerk’ as one of his 20 key gestures in a survey of the origin and distribution of gestures.

(from Morris, 1979)

Update 6 Mar `07: Mark van Bommel was fined EUR6,200 by UEFA for making insulting gestures.

More on fines and jailtime for gestures

I just waved at a wagging tail…

“Oh, no”, I found myself thinking about 20 minutes ago, “Adam Kendon was right and my family is wrong”. And all because a dog wagged his tail and I waved at it.

dag wagging tail
Nice to meet you too, dog. (source)

I recently formulated some hypotheses about the perception of waving on behalf of, or inspired by, my son Rik:

H0: Waving is limited to humans and contexts such as greeting or saying goodbye where waving is to be expected
H1: Anything can and will be seen as waving as long as the movement characteristics are right (e.g. repeated small side-to-side arched movement, from rotation around fixed point)
H1b: Anything can wave, but only if it has something resembling hands

Actually Rik only proposed “Snoopy has hands, thus he can say ‘bye’ with them”, which I turned around into the negative form of “If it [Snoopy] does not have hands it cannot wave [say ‘bye’ with them]”.

dag wagging tail
Anything can be given hands (source).

At first sight the null-hypothesis seems ridiculous. Anyone in their right mind will have countless experiences concerning waving dolls, snowmen, and other assorted electrical toys. It is easy to see the weirdest cartoon characters (think SpongeBob and friends) waving in all sorts of ways to each other or even at the viewer. But I will posit here as an additional explanation of H0 that such waving is caused by anthropomorphisation. We pretend these toys and cartoon characters are real humans. Thus, we play along with their makers who already suggest strongly that we do so, by labeling their products as toys or cartoons. We are supposed to see waving and we go along with it.

I think it is important to separate anthropomorphisation from other factors in wave perception. I suppose H1b may in fact be a special version of the anthropomorphisation position. Perhaps if we are supposed to see hands, we are also supposed to see waving. Snoopy has something I am supposed to see hands, therefore I am supposed to accept his waving. The question rises if it is possible for some non-human object to have ‘hands’ but not be the subject of anthropomorphisation. Or is in fact the projection of ‘hands’ an immediate case of anthropomorphisation. I will leave this matter open for now.

It is at least clear that there are also cases where neither anthropomorphisation is at work, nor are their hands, yet still a ‘waving movement’ is present. We may think of waving grass, trees waving in the wind, animals shaking their heads or limbs, or mechanical devices other than toys or robots. Will the waving movement in such cases cause us to be (temporarily) fooled and see waving. Can we create the illusion of waving without resorting to hands or the suggestion of human characteristics? That is what we need in order to support H1 that anything can be seen as waving.

Well, I still have to design a nice experiment (or maybe someone else can) to get to the bottom of this, but I do have a case study now that I would like to share with you:

I was driving in my car and another car was driving about 20 meters in front of me. I suddenly spotted movement in the backseat of the car, which I recognized as waving (I was guessing that a couple of kids were waving through the rear window) and I waved back. The car slowed and as I came closer I noticed that I had waved to the wagging tail of a big german shepherd dog. The dog was moving around in the trunk of the stationwagon. I will ask you: was I first speculating there were kids before I saw them ‘waving’? Or did I first see the illusion of ‘waving’ and then projected a couple of kids to fit the illusion? I think the latter is true and H1 is supported, but the question remains to what extent the rear window context sparked the waving illusion.

waving man in car
Do you always spot wavers from cars?

I sometimes see kids waving from cars at me and I always like to wave back. It is probably safe to say I am very sensitive to waving from rear windows of cars. Other people may be totally insensitive to it, even to the point that they wouldn’t see it if the kids were frantically waving at them from a car only three feet away. I hope the driver of the car in front of me was one of them.

Czech PM Topolanek Denies Finger

The Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek possibly faces a fine for giving the finger to another Czech politician KSÄŒM Deputy Vladimír KoníÄ?ek, who was offended by the gesture and filed a complaint.

Politicians, always trying to express their opinions carefully? (source)

(Prague Monitor) Topolánek unfurled an erect middle finger 2 February when opposition deputies complained about cabinet members’ absence from the parliamentary session. He later maintained that the gesture was directed at Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (KDU-ÄŒSL) and was intended to communicate, “You’re number one.” KoníÄ?ek rejected the PM’s explanation. “Deputy Topolánek performed the gesture behind my back in my direction. I have been offended and I want to instigate a disciplinary procedure,” KoníÄ?ek wrote in his complaint to the committee.

It’s not often you hear such a blatant denial of the insult intended, though it reminds me of Mick Bates. Usually people try to pass it off as innocent jest. But Topolánek’s explanation that he meant to say “you’re number one” is outright hilarious. I can think of a hundred ways of gesturing that someone is number one, OK, a Top Gun, an Ace, or my best buddy, but the digitus impudicus (known throughout the galaxy) is not one of them, I am afraid. I wonder what the sanction will be this time?

Update 22 feb: Czech PM Topolánek not fined, but reprimanded for obscene gesture

Ricky Martin Gives Finger to War Promulgation

It is thoroughly depressing that the man who is himself the most notorious finger giver on Earth is also a high profile receiver of the same insult. Yet another first place for the planet’s most hated, powerful, unbelievable executive manager; self-styled commander in chief of the armies of the West; the captain that laughs in the face of the dark hordes from the East: President George W. Bush.

Ricky Martin is now making headlines (VivirLatino, BBC, ABC, and countless copies) defending his action of giving the finger as he sang about Bush in a song in front of a big audience. Careful, Ricky, I can recall a bus driver getting fired over insulting the B that would be Big.

Latin Lover or Hero of Peace? (source)

Mr. Martin explains that he is against war, that Bush is making (or actually promulgating) war, and should therefore be condemned.

Well I guess that’s another way to interpret the gesture: Instead of saying “fuck off” or “go fuck yourself” Ricky Martin uses it to say “I condemn your behavior”. But I guess anyone who feels wordy enough to say ‘promulgate’ to the US masses, can get away with stretching the meaning of a gesture a bit. Funny, nobody seems to be hosting a picture or a video of the event. Anyone?

Merkel Shrugs Bush’s Massage Off

It has become a bit of a classic, so here’s president Bush rubbing the shoulders of bundeskanzler Angela Merkel at the G8, last summer.

(for higher quality images, see this slideshow)

This bit of cross-atlantic communication between Bush and Merkel comes fairly close to a cultural misunderstanding.

Yet I do not think Bush’ gesture (giving a shoulder rub) was misinterpreted. I would say that giving a shoulder rub (or quick massage) is a gesture of closeness, saying it is okay to let your guard down. This can be accepted by the receiver, who is then however in a bit of an underdog position. They both seem aware of this.

Merkel, however seems surprised and her response is clearly one of not accepting. Instead of undergoing the shoulder rub and all its implications, she puts her hands up and smiles uneasily. To me this indicates she tries to make a compromise between shrugging him off and letting him save face.

Reward Increased to 200 euro

Reward 200 euro

So far, there have been no takers of my reward on evidence of cross-cultural gesture mix-up stories. The reward is raised from 150 euro to 200 euro. If you are certain such misunderstanding occur often please keep your camera ready to capture them.

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