The revelation in technical feats

A little while ago, a coder by the name of Kyle McDonald put together a  bunch of code and libraries that enabled mapping photos of different faces onto one’s own face.

The question being, ok but what can you do with it. What is the work of art, what insight can be drawn, what new way of looking at the world can be exposed. As Heidegger might say, what truth is being un-concealed?

As it stands, I dont think it is much more than “look what you can do these days with just a camera and some well crafted code”.

BUT … yesterday I came across a project that had taken this code, and with just a little bit of extra work, had managed to un-conceal a little truth. This was done in a way that very much echos Jaron Lanier’s take on virtual reality. I quoted Jaron in that blog post I just linked… but I’ll quote him again here:

The most important thing about virtual reality isn’t the idea that you’re seeing this dramatic 3D thing. It’s that you, yourself change. That you experience yourself in a different way than you ever have before

Look at that video, above, again …  Kyle McDonald is pulling faces trying to, in passing, imitate the kinds of expressions that one might expect from the different faces he uses. So for Paris Hilton he puckers up, for Brad Pit he swoons, etc. Jaron Lanier’s point is not that Kyle McDonald can look like Brad Pit, but rather, that Kyle McDonald behaves differently when Brad Pit’s face is mapped on top of his own. That’s what Jaron Lanier is saying is the power of virtual reality … it changes the way you experience yourself.

This is exactly what the project Apesnake Photobooth has recognised. They have taken the leap from displaying images of the photo overlay, to displaying photos of the individuals *without* the overlay … that’s where the meat is. These photos are then automatically uploaded to a Facebook group. What is revealed is random individuals acting like apes (the face overlay is of an ape).

There are lots of things that could be said about this… lots of things that are revealed. One of them is about inhibitions. By mapping an other face ontop of one’s own face, and seeing only that mapped face … one behaves in ways that one would not normally behave in (that’s bang-on what Jaron Lanier expresses). There’s something about self-perception in there too. There’s something about social norms.

I think this project is worth evolving. Most of the facial expressions people are using involves opening their jaw as wide as possible. I’d love to see something that is more generic, or more open to individual possibilities. I’m wondering if a clown face might have potential … because of the possible happy/sad ambiguity.

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