Friday, October 12, 2007

Technology and Emotions Introductions...

Mood Ring Reincarnated

This article is about technology and mood. Mood or brief emotional state is a very detailed and examined set of behaviors which can be classified into some type of emotion that affects our actions. This article published in Psychology today, is neither in-depth nor academically serious. But few articles in Psychology Today are. Articles in the academic journals such as APA's Neuro-Psychology, typically will have more in depth scientific coverage. So it is unfair to judge the science or depth of this article compared to academic research. But it is precisely this lack of insight that makes the existence of the following technologies even more disturbing. Because it ease of offloading personal skills of understanding emotional states to machines is approached in such a non-chalant manner. Each gadget is described, the article sections include a "In My Dreams" quip that extends the already surreal technology a step further.

The article includes two sets of Photos one large mood lamp featured at the top of the article and a set of art pictures of flowers. The lamp is built onto a black base unit, and glows with colors from green to yellow to blue. The article has five sections. First a insert by Dawn Stanton, comparing the 70's mood ring to the new technologies featured below.

The next section is the Shoji mood lamp. Shoji is an actual type of cylindrical Japanese lamp. But here it also represents an acronym Symbiotic Hosting Online Jog Instrument. The lamp analyzes the mood of an entire room from sensors detecting humidity, temperature, movement, and sound. It then reflects the mix of data as different colors inside the luminescent cylinder.

The mobile mood phone is a cell phone that emits a LED light based on the mood of the caller. This LED changes in brightness and color depending on the analysis of the persons voice tone and patterns.

The final section is broken into two parts. First the device, a hardware and software setup that analyzes the facial expressions. Based on the changes of facial expression, the system can create an empathic painting by changing brushstrokes and color. The second part of this final section is a quiz that includes five small photos of a painting adjusted to match some mood. Each is numbered and the answers to the correct mood is listed upside down at the bottom of the article.

The irony is a popular magazine that issues clues to human emotion and how to master them, is writing an article about machines not humans that master emotion. Detecting mood requires presence, and as we depend more on technology to be where we are not, presence becomes a rare commodity. From telecommuting, teleconferencing, virtual meetings, and online groups or chats, real in person presence is becoming rare.

As a result so is social skills to detect and understand the moods of others are slowly being regulated to machines. This article leaves the implications of machines replacing social skills out of sight. In fact each section includes a In My Dreams section where the author makes suggestions how to extend the intelligence of the mood gadget further. Of course, nothing is mentioned on why anyone would want to depend on a machine to understand some one's mood.

As a society we are slowly losing our ability to sharpen our social skills. Our culture is rewarding isolation and the power that isolation brings. Having to be there and show up, is for common people. Those with power teleconference in or simply send a response. Since transportation has become a hassle due to post 9/11 security and congestion, modern american society continues to place presence at a premium. Now through these technologies , any skill at ascertaining moods of a group or individual will be off-loaded to machines.

The potential is entire swaths of our brain evolved for social interactions will atrophy, skills developed in earlier generations from greetings, to posture, to understanding body distance will slowly decline. There may be a rise in the premium of those with skills of presence, such that persons will be paid to just appear at live events. As this happens already, it may become so pervasive that it will trickle down to lesser known individuals who may not be famous, but at least have the skills that these gadgets are attempting to replace.