Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Watch the Debates in Slow Motion

The occasion of the election is an opportunity to reflect on the larger implications of illusionism.
Each candidate is carefully crafting an image and doing what they can to control the imagery so that it supports that image.
One great way to get beneath the controlled surface is to watch the debates in slow motion. Without the words to distract you, slow motion offers a chance to see what might be creating the hunches about candidates, where something makes you uncomfortable but you can't put your finger on it. Paul Eckman, worldwide expert on facial expressions, calls the transitional expressions that we don't consciously register microexpressions. Though candidates can rehearse and control their face to some degree, there's leakage of true attitudes, contempt or uncertainty or grievance, that are never picked up a regular speed, but can be very revealing in slow motion. We understand facial expression through an inner mimicry that connects it to how we feel when we look like that. When candidates close their eyes we feel the inner withdrawal from the situation and what they're saying.
Obviously it would take a long time to watch the whole debate this way, but if you zero in on the times that have the most expressive interaction, you'll find expressions that weren't so obvious, but were part of how they were responding to the situation. It's a way to get to your deeper reactions and get past the hype and illusion.
As a by-product, you'll have a better sense of how the particular network is trying to slant your reaction. Where the camara is pointing up at someone, where down, how much time it spends on one candidates face, how the set influences unconscious attitudes, are all part of a sophisticated understanding of how to manipulate the viewer. You don't have to be controlled like that. Hunt for the microexpressions to enlarge your visual understanding.

4 comments:

Logan Hicks said...

Susan, I can remember you urging the class to look at the slowed down facial expressions of those running the first Gulf war back when I was in school. It was a very telling thing to see how, and when people blink, turn their head, smirk, etc. In a way the face seems to run independent of the mind.

-Logan Hicks
workhorsevisuals.com

Susan Waters-Eller said...

Yes, we can only control so much of our facial expressions, and for the really perceptive even then, what's concealed can show.

Michael J DiMotta said...

Hi

I know I've been away for a long time, but I do think of you very often! I hope you get a sense of it from time to time.

Did you get any strong reactions while watching this debate? I always like hearing your thoughts

Let's talk soon!

miss you.

Mike

www.michaeldimotta.com

dator-xodar said...

Thanks for guiding me to your blog! As usual you have very insightful things to say.