Techart Conference

| 2022 TechArt Conference | 


Session 2: Algorithmic Culture and Sense-Making

Decoding Humans with Emotion AI

Warren-Smith, Gabriella (Director of Cognitive Sensations, UK)


This lecture explores the potential for decoding humans using emotion AI, through a series of artworks developed as part of Cognitive Sensations’ programme, The Downloadable Brain. Together these works question the future of humans and machines, as their biological and physical boundaries become increasingly blurred.

In The New Herulians (2021), a collaborative artwork by Marcos Lutyens and Gabriella Warren-Smith, a digital and sensory system captures participants’ emotional data via their memories in connection to place. Through the creation of a perceptual mapping of emotion, it draws attention to the unique and personal contexts of emotion, intertwined by histories and experiences. We invite you to try this artwork, please follow the instructions using this link.

In machine-in-the-middle (2021), an artwork by Rod Dickinson and Nathan Semertzidis, a mathematical approach to capturing emotion is presented. A speculative system detects emotion via one’s brainwaves, translating the emotion back onto the subject’s face through a dystopian feedback loop. The artwork proposes a new relationship that may emerge between humans and machines, tracing their progression as technological devices become increasingly intimate and interwoven into behaviour. It calls to question the consequences of a machine which directly manipulates the body based on its interpretation of one’s physiological data.

Together, these artworks tell a story of the next stage of bio-technological innovation, proposing a set of speculative systems that detect emotion via physiological data, neural connectivity, facial expressions and memory. They explore and critique the emerging systems designed to capture human emotion, questioning the methods and psychological theories upon which they are based on.


Gabriella Warren-Smith is an independent curator and researcher, whose work investigates the relationship between digital technology, cognition and society. She is the Founding Director of Cognitive Sensations, a cutting-edge CIC that explores the technologies of our time through writing, art and science. As a practitioner, Gabriella ignites creative potential in artists and scientists through research-driven collaborative projects and commissioned artworks that explore the human condition in a digital age. Her work raises critical awareness of current issues in technology such as emotion tracking, sentient machines, the digital divide and surveillance.