A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

A mix of posts on gesture, HCI, perception or robots and some personal information.

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Under the Spell of Tinkerbell

Come and travel with me
Fly with me to Neverland
Peter Pan will come for us

Just think your happy thoughts
Oh and of course a bit of pixie dust
From the one and only
Tinkerbell

My kids just got the old Disney version of Peter Pan and are loving it. And so do I. What a lovely story about fantasy and growing up. But the tiny Tinkerbell caught my professional eye as well. She is interesting to watch for her gestures and body language. She doesn’t talk, she just tingles and gestures. Check the movie for examples. Still Peter Pan, Captain Hook and the others who believe in fairies understand her.

I started to pay attention to how she gestures and it struck me that she barely mimes, nor does she create language-like gestures. Nearly all of her gesturing is spent on expression of her emotions or attitudes towards Peter and Wendy.

Now I find myself at a crossroads. Behind me is the road I traveled through a land of gestures that were all about form and meaning, about semiotics and perception. I felt the expressive aspect of gesturing to be mostly besides the point. And the point was that practically all gestures signify something. They all carry meaning from maker to taker. And my main interest has been how humans achieve this so effortlessly.

Oh no, not feelings! (source)

I had expression of emotions nicely stacked in a box of (mostly) facial expressions, subtitled ‘unvoluntary universal displays’. One does not so much intend to communicate with them, but onlookers can glean information from them.

But I am afraid it is just not true. Humans (and fairies) use displays of emotion as a way to communicate them to others. We can fully intend to influence others to our advantage this way. An expressive gesture can in fact be a complex social act, even if it has its roots in a simple reflex.

And so my choice is made
I will not grow up
But endulge myself in fantasy
And let my feelings come alive

Let us gesture
Let us fly

2 Responses to “Under the Spell of Tinkerbell”

  1. 1
    Matthijs Dröes:

    Hi Jeroen, in dutch it is. Je stukje over Tinkerbell deed me aan iets denken. Een van mijn interesses is manga of beter gezegd: de animatie variant daarvan. In Naruto (een manga over een ninja in opleiding…jaja) komen een hoop gebaren voor. Met name dan verzonnen sequenties van gebaren om bepaalde krachten te doen ontwaken. Maar toch, het leek me een interessante kijk op gestures. Er is bijvoorbeeld een gebaar voor het oproepen van dieren dat aanraking met de grond vereist met je duim.

  2. 2
    Gesture and Emotion « A Nice Gesture:

    [...] our horizon. Let me turn your gesture perspective to new topics (well, revisited actually, see here). Let us ponder [...]

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