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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Iconicity in Gestures and Sign Language

Let us assume for a moment that Mueller was right: Iconicity in Gestures is achieved by hands that act, embody, model and draw. We further agree with her that achieving iconicity presupposes certain knowledge in the observer (and in the producer for that matter). But it is general knowledge about techniques such as modeling. It does not require spcific conventional knowledge of symbols. What we have is then a handful of strategies that people can apply to try to produce (or understand) gestures.

We can then ask the question: To what extent can people rely on the strategies of gestural iconicity to understand and produce gestures or sign language? Two examples came to my mind that I would like to share. The first is about applying the rules of gestural iconicity to reading sign language (jokingly) if you do not know it. The second example is of a applying the rules of gestural iconicity to create a fantasy signed interpretation of the lyrics of Torn (also a well known joke).

My first impression upon revisiting these movies was that the rules of gestural iconicity are at work here. It seems to be a good way of looking at what these people are doing. The joke interpretation of signing is almost entirely built from guesses at meaning through applying iconicity rules (needless to say, not very succesfully). But at the same time it does not seem to be enough. One thing especially appears to be missing. Much of the pantomime in Torn is of displaying emotions with the face and the body. Although you could see that as enacting, in the sense of imitating, it seems to be a slightly different matter.

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