GREENING FACE: How Facial Expression is Made Sensible, from Pre-Christian Architectural Spaces to Post-Digital Smart Environments

Devon Schiller


After the many algorithmic, computational, and digital turns over the last five decades, the ways in which we experience and understand the face as something in and of the environment appear to be fundamentally shifting. Indeed, today more and more corporations, institutions, and governments are using automated facial recognition systems within smart environments for abstracting data capital from facial behavior. Through a post-digital perspective, the author explores a history of ideas about the face in relation to its environment across the artistic, scientific and technologic imaginaries, both constants from the past and changes of the present. This intellectual historiography compares three sources: English folklorist Julia Somerset’s 1939 article “The ‘Green Man’ in Church Architecture,” German neurologist Joachim Bodamer’s 1947 case history “The Face Blind,” and Japanese computer scientist Takeo Kanade’s 1973 doctoral project “Computer Recognition of Human Faces,” as well as their rhizomatic interrelations. By tracing the role of the environment in the study of the face, the author maps a genealogical landscape of ideas that roams across the absence and presence of color, human perception and mediated vision, inner and outer ways of seeing, as well as nonvisible and visible imaging. And, to possibly reconcile the very real ambiguity of the human face with the digital binarism of our increasingly computational planet, the author proposes a “greening of the face” whereby the face and its environment are conceptually modelled as being concretized within a complementary, reciprocal process of becoming. 

Słowa kluczowe: biometrics, color theory, facial expression, facial recognition, Green Man, intellectual history, philosophy of science, physiognomy, psychology of art, smart environments

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