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Theory 03: Critical Review Thinking (Colombetti and Enactive Affectivity)

Colombetti and enactive affectivity:

Like Leman’s embodied music cognition, Colombetti argues that affectivity (the feeling body) is not a contingent feature of the mind, but an essential dimension of embodied living. Colombetti argues that current theories about emotion don’t account for the feeling body, thus they overlook widespread phenomena of biological organisms. From a phenomenological perspective, Colombetti argues that emotion is integral to both perception and action, and that a goal orientated corporeality results as action from the feeling body. For example, physical reactions (such as frowning, smiling, shaking, clenched fists etc.) are bodily responses to felt emotion and in turn so can further action be. Colombetti addresses “appraisal”, which is central to cognitive approaches to emotion, but, like Leman, argues that disembodied approaches to cognition are not valid. Through phenomenological consideration, Colombetti argues that embodied approaches to appraisal are essential in order to address the overlap between emotion and cognition; it is not possible to separate appraisal from embodiment. Similar to Leman, Colombetti argues that the body is a medium through which experiences are felt, and there is a distinction between this and the body as an intentional object of experience. Nevertheless, within the body there is a complex network of interrelationships.

“The body of the inactive mind is thus not just the perceiving and acting body but the living body, and as such it includes, for example, the circulatory system, the immune system, and the endocrine system. These dimensions of the body are all seen as contributing to the kind of mind one has.” (Colombetti 2014, Loc 156)

Points to agree with and consider (affective phenomenology):

- Affective science is closely related to cognitive science, but is commonly understood to be concerned with the phenomena of emotion. A central idea to enactivism is embodiment. Phenomena such as emotions and moods cannot be separated from bodily experiences, and the comprehension of bodily experience. Phenomenological approaches, as well as other approaches to lived experience, should be taken.

- Merlaeu-Ponty made the most room for the lived body in his phenomenology of perception: “motion intentionality” and “corporeal schema” refers to a concrete and practical reaching out through the medium of the body to the world. The philosophy of Biran is particularly suitable for developing an account of affectivity where kinaesthetic dimensions of the lived body are central to experience.

- Heidegger claims that we are made up of moods that are modes of being in the world. Husserl theorised that moods are a way of illuminating the way in which subjects can experience the world. According to Colombetti, though, Heidegger does not address the relationship between affectivity and the body.

- Colombetti reads Heidegger’s moods in context of Patocka, who theorises that moods are altered by impressions of the world around us, dependent on how the world impresses upon our corporeal body. Colombetti concludes that moods are a kind of consequence of corporeality that are open to the world as a way of being. This is also related to the interdependencies of felt emotions and their subsequent moods.

How it will be situated:

- The project will adopt Colombetti’s approach insofar as that it will take the stance that the physicality of emotion is integral to both perception and action. This embodied enactivity is central to affective corporeal intentionality. The body is a mediator of lived experience.

- It will consider Colombetti’s discussion of mood as a product of affective emotion, and that in some cases of mood disorders an exaggerated attention to ones bodily sensations becomes alienating. This will be discussed in context of Sartre’s Embodiment and Alienation.

- It will also consider Colombetti’s reading of Lewis’ theory that triggering events can initiate, put simply, emotional episodes with physical response that are part of that felt emotion. It will consider this in relation to a corporeal influence of embodied consciousness. This will be considered in context of Husserl’s phenomenological unconscious and Merlau-Ponty’s body-memory.

- It will evaluate Colombetti’s suggestion of visual art and music as capable of evoking emotion inasmuch as they reproduce bodily movement analogous to those felt by the body when those emotions are felt in other instances. This will be considered in context of the audiovisual installation and the type of effects it produces on the participants who test it.


In summary, the points of Colombetti’s argument that are central to my study are as follows. First, it is important to consider affectivity as the corporeality of felt emotion, which results in physical bodily feelings and movements and responses. Second to this, moods are part of interdependencies of emotion. Moods illuminate the way in which a subject experiences the world. The world, in turn, influences the subject’s lived experience through the medium of the body. So, as such, affectivity cannot be separated from embodied action. This can be considered in terms of embodiment and alienation, from a phenomenological point of view. It can also be considered in relation to the way in which an audience can have an embodied experience evocative of a distorted relationship to one’s own way of being through media art, that is characteristic of an exaggerated attention of bodily sensations.

Colombetti, G. (2014) The Feeling Body: Affective Science Meets the Enactive Mind. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Theory 02: Critical Review Thinking (Leman and Embodied Music Cognition)

Marc Leman’s embodied music cognition:

Similar to the concept outlined by Merlaeu Ponty that the body is a mediator between internal and external experience, Leman analyses the embodiment of sound in terms of mind, body, and matter. The body is a biologically designed mediator that transfers sound from the environment to the mind and from the mind to the environment through action or movement. The coupling of action and perception is central to Leman’s approach. Leman’s conceptualising of a need for transparent mediation technology can be compared to Dourish’s reading of Heidegger’s technological tools in human computer interaction. Corporeal immersion in sound should take an action-oriented approach in order to be effective. Recently, the development of interactive multimedia platforms (Pure Data, Max etc.) has played an important role in the shift in understanding from disembodied to embodied cognition.

Points to agree with and consider:

- The nature of musical communication is rooted in the relationship between the cognitive body and sound matter. The mind communicates with this matter through the biological mediator, which is the body.

- The body can be extended with artificial mediation technologies, allowing consciousness to cross over into digital and virtual realms. Similar to Dourish, Leman argues that in order to be effective this must be somewhat transparent in use.

- Like Dourish, Lemen argues that the coupling of action and perception is the central mechanism to embodied cognition (corporeal intentionality). Intentionality can be expressed through physical movement in response to sound.

- Corporeal engagement with sound allows empathy. Leman puts forward Lipps’ argument that motor movement allows listeners to experience empathy physically, rather than emotionally, through moving sonic forms. This means that paradoxically sadness can become a source of pleasure because motor movement and sonic movement are matched. At the same time the subject can both identify with [the other] and become detached from it.

- A balance between awareness of and direct involvement with sound must be achieved in order to be effective. In recent years multimedia platforms have assisted in a transition from the study of disembodied to embodied cognition.

How it will be situated:

- Lemen’s goal is to better mediation technology in order to improve involvement with music and the way in which it can be accessed. The goal of this project, however, is to evaluate sound mediation in context of media art experience.

- Leman disagrees with the subjectivism approach, and so does this project. A model concerned with corporeality must address internal involvement with music within an action-orientated ontology. Listening to music has been known to generate a physical response.

- As argued by Leman, the project will use the multimedia platforms to study embodied cognition in real time. Sensorimotor theory provides the opportunity to involve phenomenology to the embodiment of music.

- Empathy in music is mediated by affective qualities insofar as that its corporeal quality impacts the emotional system felt by the acting body. This is physical, rather than sensory. This project will focus on the particular embodied feeling generated by the installation, which will have an audio component.

- Perception is coupled with an anticipating memory, action-relevent ontology. The project will consider how the mind can trigger a particular response stored in body-memory through sound, relating to Merlaeu-Ponty.

A point to challenge:

- Leman argues that technological mediators should take into account natural responses to music, such as movement in playing an instrument, or that the response should be rewarding so as to encourage the use of a skill by the audience in an art environment. The project will investigate the body as a source of sound, where no physical skill as such is required, and evaluate the effectiveness of this. Because the project assumes a philosophical perspective to produce particular thought, a response to the use of a skill in an interactive work may be too distracting.

Leman, M. (2008) Embodied Music Cognition and Mediation Technology. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Theory 01: Critical Review Thinking (Dourish and Embodiment)

Paul Dourish and phenomenology:

The world is filled with meaning available to humans through embodied action (occurring in the moment). Brentano – “intentionality” is an internal thinking of the essences of external objects in the world. Descartes – disembodied subjective consciousness means reality is uncertain, but this is has been elaborated and re-conceptualised to include a unity between the mind and body bridged by action, by phenomenologists such as Husserl – everyday embodied experience is the basis for relating to the world, Schutz – concept can be extended to social interaction and relating to other people/ intersubjectivity, Heidegger – embodied action is a way of being, Merleau-Ponty – the body mediates between internal and external experience. The concept of embodied action as meaning can be adopted by tangible and social computing. Embodied interaction in digital interfaces allows audiences to communicate meaning in digital realms.

Points to agree with and consider:

- Individuals cannot be separated from the world in which they live and act through their bodies; embodiment means things are embedded in the world.

- Technological mediators can become less noticeable and improve the experience of its effect, in ubiquitous computing. The term “invisible” is perhaps not suitable in all circumstances.

- Embodied interaction is constitutive of the whole experience, which is important to consider in tangible computing. Therefore the kind of experience created is important.

- Embodiment, intentionality and coupling combine to create an effective sensory experience; embodied interaction turns action into meaning.

- Ontological problems in technology can occur in presenting themselves to audiences in a way that communicates the way in which it should be used.

- Users create meaning ultimately, not designers, as the users are the ones experiencing the interface.

Idea behind the project:

The idea behind an image being captured of the audience participant and becoming distorted in real time is to bring the audiences body to the attention as perceived from a different perspective, thus highlighting a kind of awareness of mind-body interdependence, whether or not it is understood by the audience in these terms. Sartre’s embodiment and alienation could be linked to this in that, through the digital realm, the body becomes noticed, similar to Sartre’s theory of the body becoming noticed as the “other”. It will be explored from a philosophical point of view.

How it will be situated differently:

- The project will have a foundation in phenomenology, particularly considering Merleau-Ponty, Husserl, and Sartre. It will be concerned with embodiment and experience.

- The project will be concerned with interaction, but more about the effect of the interaction from a philosophical point of view rather than furthering the development of HCI.

- It will be about the specific design and outcome of this particular multimedia biometric, interface, not a broad exploration of computing.

- Dourish argues that familiarity is key to making technological interfaces effective, but the goal for this specific installation is to create an unfamiliar experience or outcome in order to question consciousness and embodiment from a philosophical point of view.

Dourish, P. (2004) Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. 1st Edition. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

State of the Art Influence 01: Biosensor Interface – Interactive Media Art

Thoughts About Artwork and Audience

Media art using biometric data, specifically pulse data, has been used in recent works that allow the audience to experience their body data as art in real time. This blog entry will look at selected works outlined in a paper from the Graduate School of Advanced Imaging Science, Multimedia, and Film at Chung-Ang University, whose outline is as follows:

“From the psychological viewpoint, real time and expression are very important because they can help self-recognition and expansion of communication based on understanding of ones own emotion and body.” (Kim and Kim 2014, p.129)

The purpose of this blog entry, however, is to evaluate state of the art research in context of my own project, that also uses a biosensor interface. Kim and Kim describe the relationship between artwork and audience:

“A subject’s pulse data is expressed through an object in real time and he or she views it as an artwork as an audience. For this process, interactive art acts as a medium and, naturally, the audience form relationship with the artwork and learns the intent of the artist.” (Kim and Kim 2014, p.129)

This is an interesting point to consider; does the audience become closer to the artwork by becoming part of it? And to what extent does the artist influence the spectator, if at all? Rokeby has discussed the role of the spectator in relation to the role of the artist in a non-interactive art work:

“As the role of the spectator is questioned and transformed, so is the role of the artist… Cage’s intent in reducing the control he had over the final result can be inferred from his suggestion that “the highest purpose is to have no purpose at all” (Rokeby)

Rokeby discusses this question in relation to Cage’s chance compositions, where the outcome is generated by a list of rules and a toss of a coin. Here, the intent of the artist is to have minimum control over the outcome. Here it can be asked, does the audience have more freedom as the artist has less control? This can also be linked to McLuhan’s light bulb theory, where the example of a lit bulb illustrates the argument that “the medium is the message”. Rokeby also discusses Cage’s work in relation to interactive art:

“Unlike Cage’s work, interactive work involves a dialogue between the interactor and the system making up the artwork. The interactive system responds to the interactor, who in turn responds to that response. A feedback system is created in which the implications of an action are multiplied, much as we are reflected into infinity by the two facing mirrors in a barber shop” (Rokeby)

Intrestingly, Rokeby outlines a kind of loop between the machine responding to the person which in turn generates an action from that person and then another from the machine. From this perspective, the audience is an integral part of determining the outcome of and thus the effect of the art work. So, as much as it is important to consider the influence of the artist, it is important to consider the influence of the audience. Another point to consider is the importance of audience experience with an interactive work. Rokeby argues that audiences expect ‘proof’ that the work is actually interactive:

“Because explicit interactivity is still a relatively new feature in artworks, the audience often approaches the works with scepticism. The audience requires proof that the work is interactive” (Rokeby)

With my own project in mind, this is very important. A piece of art may well take data from a person’s body to create a visual effect, but how would the audience know that? Unless they of course had some kind of knowledge of the working patch itself. From this point of view, it is important to make sure the pulse sensor generates an obvious outcome that allows the audience to see a clear difference between before and after placing their finger on the sensor.

Biometric Works

Two biometric works mentioned by Kim and Kim that interest me are as follows:

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer – “Pulse Room” (2006)

“Pulse Room is an interactive installation featuring one to three hundred clear incandescent light bulbs, 300 W each and hung from a cable at a height of three metres. The bulbs are uniformly distributed over the exhibition room, filling it completely. An interface placed on a side of the room has a sensor that detects the heart rate of participants. When someone holds the interface, a computer detects his or her pulse and immediately sets off the closest bulb to flash at the exact rhythm of his or her heart. The moment the interface is released all the lights turn off briefly and the flashing sequence advances by one position down the queue, to the next bulb in the grid. Each time someone touches the interface a heart pattern is recorded and this is sent to the first bulb in the grid, pushing ahead all the existing recordings. At any given time the installation shows the recordings from the most recent participants” (Antimodular Research 2006)

As my project will be motivated by phenomenology – thus the interdependence between mind and body – it will see this as an example of the body influencing the mind, and in turn the mind influencing the body, also as a kind of feedback loop. What I mean by this is that an outcome from the body, the flickering bulb, influences an outcome by the mind, and in turn generates another action by the body either to eventually let go of the sensor or to feel own pulse to check it etc. The purpose of my project, however, will be to highlight this mind-body interdependence but also to perceptually distort the audiences experience, so that they will be, representationally, displaced from their usual way of experiencing this interdependence.

George Zisiadis – “Pulse of the City” (2012)

“Figure 3 is George Zisiadis’s Pulse of the city, which was first exhibited in Urban Prototyping Festival in San Francisco in October 2012, and now in five areas of Boston streets as an interactive public art installation. It is made in a heart shape, and when the viewer holds the handle on the either side, it immediately detects and checks the heart rate in real time for one minute, which is then used as a beat to make music that will be played through the built-in speaker. In the confusing noise of the city, pedestrians listen to their biometric data and are entertained by it” (Kim and Kim 2014, p.131)

In context of my project, this will be reviewed with theory, specifically from Marc Leman, about embodiment and music cognition in mind. Leman considers the body as a mediator between mind and matter, and suggests that action is the foundation for music perception. Leman argues that embodied action by music is expressed through movement, and this is corporeal. Leman also argues that “mediation technology” allows the body, and mind, to become extended into a digital music realm. My practical project itself will allow the pulse biosensor to influence a pure data patch to change in correspondence with the audience’s individual heart beat, exemplifying the body’s influence over sounds that the mind is hearing.

Another example, connected with music, is the Heart Chamber Orchestra, who play music from a score generated by their pulse in real time. Their pulse also generates a visualisation.

Heart Chamber Orchestra – Pixelache (2006)

“The Heart Chamber Orchestra – HCO – is an audiovisual performance. The orchestra consists of 12 classical musicians and the artist duo TERMINALBEACH. Using their heartbeats, the musicians control a computer composition and visualization environment. The musical score is generated in real time by the heartbeats of the musicians. They read and play this score from a computer screen placed in front of them.
HCO forms a structure where music literally “comes from the heart” (HCO)

This is perhaps more literally relevant to Leman’s research, as a large part of his theory is modelled on the movement of musicians themselves and embodied action during performing. Of course, my project will not involve the literal performance of musical instruments, but it will involve the generation of sound from the medium of the body itself.

Antimodular Research (1992-2014). Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 2 July 2014]

HCO (2014) The Heart Chamber Orchestra. [Wordpress]. Available from: [Accessed 2 July 2014]

Kim, D. and Kim, H. (2014) Biosensor Interface: Interactive Media Art Using Biometric Data. International Journal of Bio-Science and Bio-Technology 6 (1) 129 – 136. Available from: [Accessed 2 July 2014]

Leman, M. (2008) Embodied Music Cognition and Mediation Technology. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

McLuhan, M. (1994) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. First Edition. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

MUTEK (2011) Pulse Room by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. [Vimeo]. Available from:[Accessed 2 July 2014]

Pure (2010) Heart Chamber Orchestra – Pixelate. [Vimeo]. Available from:[Accessed 2 July 2014]

Rokeby, D. (1996) Transforming Mirrors : Interaction in the context of Art. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 2 July 2014]

Zizaidis, G. (2013) Pulse of the City – Turning Heartbeats Into Music. [Vimeo]. Available from:[Accessed 2 July 2014]