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Tallinn Summer School in St. Petersburg August 26–31

Ilkka Kosunen

With the support of the Estonia 100 programme, Tallinn University, Tallinn Summer School, and ITMO University  offered a summer school course “Experimental Interaction Design: Physiological Computing Technologies for Performative Arts.”

The main goal of the one-week extensive hands-on course in interaction design was to empower people to shape their digital environments thus providing a new level of digital literacy. This edition focused on Neurotheatre, a specific type of interactive theatre, where audience and/or actors can communicate via brain and neural computer interfaces using multimodal sensors and actuators.

The course introduced core design and interaction design topics in a provocative stance, inviting participants to reflect upon ongoing shifts, connections, and re-framings in just about every area of interaction design, and inciting a rebellion against passivity. This was complemented with the development of skills in systematic evaluation of usability and user experience of interaction designs. The expectation is to see participants take ownership of the interaction design process.

http://summerschool.tlu.ee/russia/

 

New neurocinematic publication – Narrative comprehension beyond language

Pia Tikka, Janne Kauttonen & Yevhen Hlushchuk (2018): “Narrative comprehension beyond language: Common brain networks activated by a movie and its script”

A young girl Nora stares shocked at her mother Anu. Anu stands expressionless by the kitchen table and scrapes the left-over spaghetti from Nora’s plate into a plastic bag. She places the plate into the bag and starts putting there other dining dishes, takes a firm hold of the bag and smashes it against the table. Nora is horrified: “Mother! What are you doing?. Anu continues smashing the bag without paying attention to her daughter. Nora begs her to stop. Anu collapses crying against the table top. Nora approaches, puts her arms around the crying mother and starts slowly caressing her hair.

The dramatic scene describes a daughter witnessing a nervous breakdown of her mother. Its narrative content remains the same should one read it in a textual form or viewed it as a movie. It is relatively well known how narratives are processed in the distinct human sensory cortices depending on the sensory input through which the narrative is perceived (reading, listening, viewing; [15]). However, far less is known of how the human brain processes meaningful narrative content independent of the media of presentation. To tackle this classical dichotomy issue between form and content in neuroimaging terms, we employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to provide new insights into brain networks relating to a particular narrative content while overlooking its form.

In the image Nora (actress Rosa Salomaa); director Saara Cantell, cinematography Marita Hällfors (F.S.C), producer Outi Rousu, Pystymetsä Oy, 2010.

Abstract

Narratives surround us in our everyday life in different forms. In the sensory brain areas, the processing of narratives is dependent on the media of presentation, be that in audiovisual or written form. However, little is known of the brain areas that process complex narrative content mediated by various forms. To isolate these regions, we looked for the functional networks reacting in a similar manner to the same narrative content despite different media of presentation. We collected 3-T fMRI whole brain data from 31 healthy human adults during two separate runs when they were either viewing a movie or reading its screenplay text. The independent component analysis (ICA) was used to separate 40 components. By correlating the components’ time-courses between the two different media conditions, we could isolate 5 functional networks that particularly related to the same narrative content. These TOP-5 components with the highest correlation covered fronto-temporal, parietal, and occipital areas with no major involvement of primary visual or auditory cortices. Interestingly, the top-ranked network with highest modality-invariance also correlated negatively with the dialogue predictor, thus pinpointing that narrative comprehension entails processes that are not language-reliant. In summary, our novel experiment design provided new insight into narrative comprehension networks across modalities.

Conference presentation @Virtual Reality as a Transformative Technology to Develop Empathy June 20

A video conference presentation at the 1st “Virtual Reality as a Transformative Technology to Develop Empathy” Conference, organised by the “empathic Reactive MediaLab Coalition” (eRMLab Coalition) and EmpaticaXR research group.

 

Lynda Joy Gerry: Envisioning Future Technology for Compassion Cultivation

Experiments in cognitive neuroscience have recently dissociated neural pathways underpinning the experience of empathy from that of compassion. Namely, whereas the experience of empathy involves neural activations regarding an affective pain resonance with the distress or suffering of the target, compassion is correlated to reward centers and positive affect regions of the brain. The import of this finding is that empathy may in some instances lead to a withdrawal reflex if there is excessive sharing of distress with the target, whereas compassion appears to involve a care for the welfare of another and an approach motivation. Within the last five years, virtual environments (VEs) have been increasingly researched and developed towards the goal of enhancing users’ social intelligence, self-compassion, positive attitudes towards out-groups, and empathy. However, most of these VEs do not help the user to become more aware of his or her own emotional and psychological states in response to another person or persons, arguably a crucial step in the recovery from empathic distress or over-arousal. Biofeedback training has also been used for improving social cognition skills, but only a few projects have incorporated biofeedback into empathy-enhancing virtual environments. Recovery from empathic distress as a skill trained through biofeedback VEs could enhance interpersonal connectedness, quality of life, and social cohesion.

Article “Screendance as enactment…” DATJournal Design Art and Technology

In this article Deren’s film At Land is analyzed as an expression of a human body-brain system situated and enactive within the world, with references to neuroscience, neurocinematic studies, and screendance.

TIKKA, Pia. Screendance as enactment in Maya Deren’s At Land. DATJournal Design Art and Technology, [S.l.], v. 3, n. 1, p. 9-28, june 2018. ISSN 2526-1789. First published in The Oxford Handbook of Screendance Studies Edited by Douglas Rosenberg,Aug 2016. Available  online here.

Compassion Cultivation Training in Bio-Adaptive Virtual Environments Paris, CRI June 8

As part of the Frontiers du Vivant, Lynda Joy Gerry presented and defended her project “Compassion Cultivation Training in Bio-Adaptive Virtual Environments” at the Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI) in Paris. This project involves using perspective-taking in virtual environments using biofeedback relating to emotion regulation (heart rate variability) to manage the recovery from empathic distress. Empathic distress is conceived as a step in the empathic process towards the understanding of another person’s affective, bodily, and psychological state, but one that can lead to withdrawal and personal distress for the empathizer. Thus, this project implements instruction techniques adopted from Compassion Cultivation Training guided meditation practices cued by biofeedback to entrain better self-other boundaries and distinctions, as well as emotion regulation.

Lynda also participated in a workshop on VR and Empathy led by Philippe Bertrand from BeAnother Lab (BAL, The Machine to Be Another). See Philippe Bertrand TEDx talk “Standing in the shoes of the others with VR”

Hybrid Arts and Science Collaboration Day dedicated to Leonardo 50

Hybrid Arts and Science Collaboration Day, Celebrating Leonardo’s 50th Anniversary  

The full day event brought together the local and international long term supporters and authors who have contributed to the 50 years of Leonardo, the leading international peer-reviewed journal on the use of contemporary science and technology in the arts and music and, increasingly, the application and influence of the arts and humanities on science and technology.

Upper image: The executive director of Leonardo-journal Roger F. Malina at the map that visualizes the broad international activity of the Leonardo community Below: Vice-dean of Aalto Arts Rasmus Vuori, Leonardo board member artist-curator Nina Czegledy, and Leonardo’s executive director  Roger F. Malina with Leonardo author Pia Tikka.

The journal Leonardo was founded in 1968 in Paris by kinetic artist and astronautical pioneer Frank Malina. Malina saw the need for a journal that would serve as an international channel of communication among artists, with emphasis on the writings of artists who use science and developing technologies in their work. After the death of Frank Malina in 1981 and under the leadership of his son, Roger F. Malina, Leonardo moved to San Francisco, California, as the flagship journal of the newly founded nonprofit organization Leonardo/The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (Leonardo/ISAST). Leonardo/ISAST has grown along with its community and today is the leading organization for artists, scientists and others interested in the application of contemporary science and technology to the arts and music.

 

Hybrid Labs The Third Renewable Futures Conference

Hybrid Labs Symposium
The Third Renewable Futures Conference
May 30 – June 1, 2018, Aalto University, Otaniemi Campus

June 31 NeurocinemAtics on narrative experience

Hybrid Labs is the third edition of Renewable Futures conference that aims to challenge the future of knowledge creation through art and science. The HYBRID LABS took place from May 30 to June 1, 2018 at Aalto University in Espoo, Finland, in the context of Aalto Festival. Celebrating 50 years of Leonardo journal and community, the HYBRID LABS conference looked back into the history of art and science collaboration, with an intent to reconsider and envision the future of hybrid laboratories – where scientific research and artistic practice meet and interact.
http://hybridlabs.aalto.fi/hls2018-symposium/

Pia Tikka and Mauri Kaipainen:
Triadic epistemology of narrative experience

We consider the narrative experience as a triangular system of relations between narrative structure , narrative perspective , and physiological manifestations associated with both. The proposal builds on the fundamentally pragmatist idea that no two of these elements are enough to explain each other, but a third is always required to explicate the interpretative angle. Phenomenological accounts altogether reject the idea of objective descriptions of experience. At the same time, a holistic understanding must assume that a narrative is shared on some level, an assumption narratology must make, and that even individual experiences are also embodied, as is evident to neuroscientists observing brain activity evoked by narrative experience. It cannot be that these accounts are incompatible forever. Using these elements, we discuss a triadic epistemology, a mutually complementary knowledge construction system combining phenomenological, narratological and physiological angles in order to generate integrated knowledge about how different people experience particular narratives.

Our approach assumes a holistic, or even deeper, an enactive perspective to experiencing, that is, assuming systemic engagement in the embodied, social, and situational environmental processes. Consequently, we propose understanding narrative content needs to be analyzed not only based on subjective reports of theexperiencer, but they also need to be related to neurophysiological manifestations of the experience. Or, describing the associated neural activity during the viewing of a film is not enough to relate it to subjective reports of the viewers, but the observations also need to be interpreted to conventions of storytelling. A selection of cases are described to clarify the proposed triadic method.

Κeywords: neurophenomenology, narrative experience, narrative perspective, enactive theory of mind, epistemology

eFilm: Hyperfilms for basic and clinical research presented by
my aivoAALTO collaborator professor Mikko Sams showed highlights of neuroscience findings related to viewing films in fMRI and introduced the concept of eFilm, a novel computational platform for producing and easily modifying films to be used in basic and clinical research.

June 1 VR TALKS at Aalto Studios

VR Research Talks organised with Virtual Cinema Lab and FiVR Track dedicated on research in and around VR, with a focus on artistic praxes around sound, alternative narrations and the self.

Daniel Landau: Meeting Yourself in Virtual Reality and Self-Compassion
Self-reflection is the capacity of humans to exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about their fundamental nature, purpose, and essence. Between the internal process of Self-reflection to the external observation of one’s reflection – runs a thin line marking the relationship between the private-self and the public-self. From Narcissus’s pond, through reflective surfaces and mirrors, to current day selfies, the concepts of self, body-image and self-awareness have been strongly influenced by the human interaction with physical reflections. In fact, one can say that the evolution of technologies reproducing images of ourselves has played a major role in the evolution of the Self as a construct. With the current wave of Virtual-Reality (VR) technology making its early steps as a consumer product, we set out to explore the new ways in which VR technology may impact our concept of self and self-awareness. ‘Self Study’ aims to critically explore VR as a significant and novel component in the history and tradition of the complex relationship between technology and the Self (—).

See more on Daniel’s work here)

 

 

Embodying Creative Expertise in Virtual Reality Zurich ZhDK May 29-31

In collaboration with BeAnotherLab (The Machine to Be Another), Lynda Joy Gerry taught a workshop, “Embodying Creative Expertise in Virtual Reality” to Masters in Interaction Design students at Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZhDK), as part of a course, “Ecological perception, embodiment, and behavioral change in immersive design” led by BAL members.

Image: Poster for the students’ final project presentation and exhibition.

Lynda specifically taught students design approaches using a semi-transparent video overlay of another person’s first-person, embodied experience, as in First-Person Squared. The focus of the workshop was on Leap Motion data tracking and measurements, specifically how to calculate compatibility and interpersonal motor coordination through a match score between the two participants, and how to send this data over a network. The system provides motor feedback regarding imitative gestures that are similar in form and position, and also for gestures that occur synchronously (at the same time), ideally trying to support both types of interpersonal motor coordination. Lynda taught students the equations used and data input necessary to calculate this algorithm for the different match scores, and also how to add interaction effects to this data. Lynda showed students how to implement Leap motion hand tracking on top of stereoscopic point-of-view video and how to record user hand movements. On the 31st, students premiered their final projects at an event entitled “Scattered Senses.”