Movement images of VCUarts Dance student Marissa Forbes that Kinetic Imaging professor Kate Sicchio captured for a performance.

Can someone read your emotions just by the way you look at your phone? Kate Sicchio, assistant professor of dance and Kinetic Imaging, thinks so. On December 12, she appeared on a recording of Freakonomics Radio Live, where journalist Stephen Dubner asked her how, exactly, she could derive emotions from the flick of a finger.

DUBNER: So you observe their movements, and because you’re a dance professor you can tell how they’re feeling?


DUBNER: Oh, okay. Bingo.

SICCHIO: So in choreography, we have different tools of analysis. And in particular there’s this thing called the Laban Effort Graph. And what it does is, it allows you to look at movement in three different categories. One is time: is the movement sudden or sustained? One is space: is the movement direct or indirect? And another is force: is it strong or light? And when you combine these three things you start to get gestures — so a strong, sudden, direct movement is a punch. Right? […] So one of the things we do a lot on our phone is, we do things like mindless surfing. Well, that gesture is what we call a flick. So it’s indirect and light and sudden, right? And that means that yeah, you’re not really being conscientious, you’re not paying that much attention, you might be bored.

DUBNER: Are there practical applications of this observation?

SICCHIO: Yeah, I think that you could make things more direct and more sustained so people would think about it more. Maybe we want news apps to be more like that, so people are actually careful about what they’re reading and thinking about what they’re digesting in terms of the content.

Head to the Freakonomics site to hear the full conversation or read the transcript.



December 18, 2018