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Faceless technology: An analysis of emotionless communication

“Should we call it expression or communication?”
Paul Ekman

Basic facial expressions are not culturally determined, and thus are one of the only universal communication methods. Additionally it is well founded, that visual cues, such as expression and gestures play very important roles in face to face communication. Thus, how is the widespread use of faceless technology effecting communication? And conversely how do people emotionally interact with technology, do they physically react to a virtual conversation in the same way they would react face to face?

People physically express emotions for a reason, whether to provide others with clues about their mood, their understanding, their reaction, etc. These subtle movements are largely lost when we enter the world of virtual communication. Although certain mediums, such as video and audio chat, provide the opportunities to intentionally emphasize voice and gestures, these movements or emoticons are not equivalent to traditional subconscious expressions.

Additionally, despite an effort to emphasis and facilitate communication online through environments such as social networking sites and other passive interactive environments, remote communication is still far from ideal. Largely these environments rely on external interactions to initiate contact. For example, the majority of my Facebook friends and instant messenger contacts consist of people whom I met in person. Understandably face to face communication provides a foundation and context for future conversations which cannot yet be easily gained virtually.

In 1976, Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen, developed FACS, the Facial Action Coding System, which provides a taxonomy for every feasible human facial expression. Using this classification system as a foundation, this thesis attempts to analyze the ways in which people compensate for using faceless technology? And how this compensation affects the overall effectiveness of communication?

Last modified 10 December 2007 at 10:53 pm by jane