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Updated by Jodie Taylor on Nov 10, 2018
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Affective Media

Media, emotion and cognition.

Film Studies For Free: On 'Affect' and 'Emotion' in Film and Media Studies

Emotion is a phenomenon that, according to [Sergei] Eisenstein, "is completely identical with the primary phenomenon of cinema. [In cinema] movement is created out of two motionless cells. Here, a movement of the soul, i.e. emotion (from the Latin root motio = movement), is created out of the performance of a series of incidents." ([Towards a Theory of Montage] 145, emphasis in original). Properly structured as a series of uncompleted incidents, montage calls on us to finish the actions mentally, and for Eisenstein this internal movement of filling in the gaps is emotion, a movement of the soul. [Greg M. Smith, Moving Explosions: Metaphors of Emotion in Sergei Eisenstein's Writings', Quarterly Review of Film and Video 21.4 (October-November 2004) 303-315 citing Eisenstein, Towards a Theory of Montage. Trans. Michael Glenny. Ed. Michael Glenny and Richard Taylor. London: BFI Publishing, 1991; hyperlinks added]
[H]ow to write about specific, personal affective experiences of the cinema? [...]

It is difficult for me to articulate, but I was affected [in Unforgiven] by the conjunction of lighting, costuming, and the melancholy, homicidal figure of [Clint] Eastwood in the final shootout in Greely’s. The mise en scène of this confrontation repeats that of the night of Will’s beating at the hands of Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). The lack of contrast in lighting and the orange and brown colours of both the characters’ costumes and saloon setting cause the characters to merge into their surroundings. It is literally difficult to see what is happening. While William Munny and the Eastwood persona are constructed as unforgiven in this scene, somewhere in the gloom I found a metaphor for the ambivalence of their forgiveness across the entire film. As a result, I declined to judge this “notoriously vicious and intemperate” figure, as he is labelled in [the film]. Instead I forgave him. I saw his thinning hair and the wounds engraved on his face, and reached out to tend to them. Forgiveness was the punctum which I found in Unforgiven and which is already there in the text, if ambiguously. [...]

Feeling, Emotion, Affect

AFFECT/AFFECTION. Neither word denotes a personal feeling (sentiment in Deleuze and Guattai). L’affect (Spinoza’s affectus) is an ability to affect and be affected. It is a prepersonal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that body’s capacity to act. L’affection (Spinoza’s affection) is each such state considered as an encounter between the affected body and a second, affecting, body … (Massumi, Plateaus xvi)

We Feel Fine / by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar

An exploration of human emotion, in six movements by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar

5 Emotions Invented By The Internet, In GIF Form | The Creators Project

Each emotion sits within a yolk yellow circle and is contextualized within its family of related emotions.C lick here for a larger image. At one point or another, we've all wanted to throw a book or two at a computer.

The Ekmans' Atlas of Emotion

The Atlas of Emotion is a tool to help people better understand what emotions are, how they are triggered and what their effects are, and how to become aware of emotions before acting on them.

Map of Human Emotions

Scientists Create Amazing Map that Charts 27 Distinct Human Emotions. This conceptual framework is the most advanced representation of human emotions to date. 
 

Universe of Emotions

Universe of Emotions, a graphic map of who we are and how we interact. Science and art blend in the biggest graphic representation of the emotions known to this day. This map includes 408 emotions to help us visualize and understand our behaviour as human beings. An educational and informative tool that allows us to know what happens inside us. And most importantly, it helps us to manage our emotions.

Affect—a basic summary of approaches

Whatever this is, it seems to involve “affect”, in all it’s dimensions. But what’s affect? Affect is both the simplest thing and the most complex. I guess that’s what makes it both so valuable and so difficult to think about. There’s a great Affect Theory Reader  out now, edited by Greg Seigworth and Melissa Gregg. It’s great for lots of reasons apart from the fact I co-wrote a chapter for it (along with Lone Bertelsen … our chapter is “An Ethics of Everyday Infinities And Powers: Félix Guattari on Affect and the Refrain” … Lone’s also written some great things on affect and photoworks—). And it’s not as though there’s not a lot of wonderful material around on affect. There are of course the thinkers I mention below, and lots of other people. Two of my favourites writers on affect I have to quickly note here who are not mentioned below are Lauren Berlant and Sianne Ngai (one day I’ll put a largish affect reading list up—not today though). You could do worse than start with this wonderful Wang Wei poem, My Retreat at Mount Zhongman.

Affective Experiences | New Media, Audiences and Affective Experiences

Interactivity and digital technologies are challenging notions of reason and cognition, perception and memory, emotions and affection. This project's focus is to bring into creative tension field of digital culture, new media and information communication technologies with cultural studies to explore how or if digital media challenge or alter cultural experiences and how researchers engage with it.

Affect and Media

Fundamentally, affect is extremely related and crucial to the context of media and communication, as this is the field in which interaction and engagement are created through audience feelings and emotions. Whether it is a piece of music, novel, film, an advertisement or any of other media works; stimuli and "intensities" are all involved in the process of affecting and being affected by us.

What is affect theory?

Affect theory is an approach to culture, history, and politics that focuses on nonlinguistic forces, or affects. Affects make us what we are, but they are neither under our “conscious” control nor even necessarily within our awareness—and they can only sometimes be captured in language. Affect theory can be linked to other conversations happening in the humanities—including Michel Foucault’s “analytics of power,” new attention being paid to animals, the study of secularism, and my home field of religious studies. Affect theory helps us understand power by encouraging us to think of power as theater.

Feeling Machines: The Psychopedagogies of Emotion-maximizing Media - DML Central

It is now possible to measure and manage emotions through mobile apps and other digital devices. As part of my current research exploring the expert practices and knowledge base of the emerging field of " educational data science," I have been gathering examples of educational technologies that are designed to both monitor learners' emotions through data mining techniques, and also to manipulate their feelings.

10 Thoughts on Affect and Film

In-keeping with Mona’s recent ’10 things I know about...’ blogs, I have accepted the challenge of attempting to summarise my own research in such a way. Here are 10 thoughts about affect and film scribed without reference to notes or quotation: Film phenomenologists such as Vivian Sobchack consider ‘affect’ to…

Jesse Prinz on Art and Emotion

How do works of art affect us? Conceptual art seems too cool for it to be connected with emoiton. Jesse Prinz argues that our experience of art is fundamentally emotional, and wonder is the key. Listen to Jesse Prinz on this Philosophy Bites podcast.

Affect - The Chicago School of Media Theory

“I shall consider human actions and desires in exactly the same manner, as though I were concerned with lines, planes, and solids” — Baruch Spinoza, The Ethics

Affective Multimedia Analysis: Introduction, Background and Perspectives

In 1995, Picard proposed ideas about how to use affective computing for multimedia selection. She envisaged a content player which can sense user's emotional state and deliver the content that matches her emotional state. This also needs an emotional understanding of the content itself.

How Games Move Us: Five Minutes with Katherine Isbister

In How Games Move Us Katherine Isbister examines the ways in which video games can influence emotion and social connection. Below Playful Thinking series coeditor Jesper Juul interviews her about the new book.

Don’t just look – smell, feel, and hear art. Tate’s new way of experiencing paintings

A prizewinning new multisensory exhibition is using sounds, touch and scents to reinterpret some works of modern British art.

Cinema and Embodied Affect

Just as “medicine’s conquest of the body” as an object of knowledge “required the gradual foreclosure of subjective experience”, as John Wiltshire writes (Wiltshire, 40-41), when we examine the transposition of the physiological understanding of the body and of vision into contemporary film theory, it is the same foreclosure of the full resonance of embodied experience that characterises this disciplinary field, and the physiological metaphor emerges as a regulatory force in its own right within film theory.

Affect, Responsibility, and How Modes of Engagement Shape the Experience of Videogames

The experience of videogames is distinct from other forms of mediated storytelling because the person playing the game can come to feel responsible for events and characters within a fictional world due to dynamics within what Brendan Keogh calls the ‘messy, hybrid assemblage’ of videogame play:

Games function through modes of engagement where people need to make decisions and take actions in order to proceed through a hybrid text, in a context that the player is affectively invested in, and which is personally relevant to both the player and their situation. A perception of responsibility grows out of that agency, since the player’s decisions have a meaningful impact on a world and characters that they already invested in treating as if they were real.

In the Mood for Love and the “Secret” of Cinematic Affect

I teach a class on urban film which charts a history of the relationship between the cinema, the city and affect and every year at the mid-point I screen Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000).[I] The “New Wave” of Hong Kong Cinema and this film, charting a love affair that does not happen, always rate as one the most popular of topics we cover—perhaps surprisingly given the more populist content of the rest of the course (including the gangster film, horror, science fiction and Tarantino). The student body at the University of East London is hugely diverse but the dimly-lit, claustrophobic and repressed city of 1962 Hong Kong, with its lack of much of a guiding narrative, is a very distant alien world—albeit one that is punctuated by the impeccable suits and spectacular dresses of the two leads (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung), an evocative soundtrack and images composed with breath-taking beauty. What the students don’t know is that every time we get to the final sequence of the film, as Chow (Tony Leung) whispers his secret into the grey stone walls of the Angkor Wat temples of Cambodia, the proverbial hairs rise on the back of my neck and a lump rises in the back of my throat—every year, without fail, like some neo-Pavlovian response. For me, these two different anecdotal affective responses contain within them some of the most difficult and pressing issues when discussing theories of affect: the relationship between affect and history and cultural context, affect in the globalised city, collective versus individualised responses, and the relationship between affect and emotion. In some ways these are well-trampled debates, and certainly too large and unresolvable for a piece like this. But In the Mood For Love feels like a still very contemporary response to them and not the nostalgic evocation of 1960s Hong Kong that we might be tempted to see it as.

Media Assemblages

A media theory and history blog diagramming how media form assemblages of people, populations, technologies, meanings, and sensations. The evolution of these assemblages, their non-linear dynamics, their affects, and self-organizing capacities are what is explored in these postings.

Altering human sensorium

Artificial flavours, augmented senses, immersive media, augmented reality, virtual reality By shaping the media environment, media are able to tune the human sensorium according to their “bias”. Equipped with ideasthesia/synesthesia, the sensorium follows the environment. In its turn, thanks to neuroplasticity (and ideasthesia/synesthesia), the sensorium is able to adapt humans to any media environment. Media…

Spectacles of Death: Body Horror, Affect and Visual Culture in the Mexican Narco Wars

Recorded with a mobile device, the online video’s low resolution and vertical format make it akin to snuff filmmaking, gore and torture porn (reminiscent of films such as Cannibal Holocaust (Ruggero Deodato, 1980); Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh & Blood (Hideshi Hino, 1985); Hostel (Eli Roth, 2005) and Tom Six’s 2010 film The Human Centipede (First Sequence)) and found-footage horror (think of The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, 1990); or Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s 2007 film [REC]). Upon watching it, one is overcome by the kind of jolts and affective responses, a mix of attraction and aversion, experienced when viewing a transgressive movie like A Serbian Film (Srdjan Spasojevic, 2010), which employs unspeakable “excesses that provoke, alienate and challenge viewers”.1 The video is titled “Vídeo donde Sicarios descuartizan a Taxista por Halcón en Guerrero” (or “Video where sicarios tear apart a taxi driver for being an informant in Guerrero:) and was uploaded in December 2016.2 As the victim becomes flesh, bones, pain and fluids one is ultimately overcome by disgust, “a rush of air that chokes, a rush of choking air”.3 As spectators, the carnage seems too unreal, too far-fetched to be true. The footage is nauseating because it highlights our own physical vulnerability, and the limitlessness of cruelty. It is also shocking because we recognise our own voyeuristic attraction to ruined bodies and death.

Spectacle and the Melodramatic Rhetoric in Nil by Mouth

In his book, A Passion for Cultural Studies (2009), Ben Highmore uses the word “passion” to describe the variety of ways in which culture can be experienced as something that is both felt, that “gets under our skin”, and as something that effects us emotionally.[1] Indeed, as he says, the haptic nature of the language used to describe this passionate experience is indicative of our relationship to it: “we are moved by a sentiment, our feelings are hurt, I am touched by your generosity” (author’s emphasis).[2] Highmore argues that as a consequence of attempting to address a phenomenon which straddles this boundary between the physical and the emotional, “writings about the passions … have always recognised the impossibility of treating [them] as exclusively or even primarily mental or ideational”.[3] Unfortunately, this has not always been the case in Film Studies where, as Vivian Sobchack says, there has been a tendency to regard the notion of affect as “a soft, mushy term, a hangover from a sloppy liberal humanism”.[4] Considering the almost universal acceptance of the power of cinema to “move” its audience, however, understanding how this process works is a crucial aspect of film theory.

  • Dr Jodie Taylor is a Senior Lecturer in Media & Cultural Studies at SAE Creative Media Institute, Brisbane. Through the lens of critical pedagogy, Jodie’s praxis-orientated approach to education is guided by the desire to help students become aesthetically inspired, media literate, culturally sensitive, critical and creative thinkers.

    She is the author of Playing it Queer: Popular Music, Identity & Queer World-making (Peter Lang 2012), and co-author of Redefining Mainstream Popular Music (Routledge 2013) and The Festivalisation of Culture (Ashgate 2014). She has published more than 30 scholarly articles & chapters on popular music, gender, sexuality and ageing; queer theory, youth culture and subcultural style; and ethical relations in ethnographic fieldwork.

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