A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

Search results: "ad campaign"

A Case of Co-Speech Gestures

A wonderfull new video on YouTube of two guys (programmers, it says) talking and ‘co-speech-gesturing’ (is that a verb?).


“Real programmers use sign language” (by ekabanov)

I think it is safe to assume that it is for real. Their whole behaviour looks too natural and wacky to be scripted.

I also think this is a great case study to spend some time on while discussing some of the ideas of David McNeill. Because what we have here is what his theories and ideas are concerned with. There is (of course) no sign language nor did I spot any other ’emblematic gesture’ (those vulgar things you get fined or jailed for or the goofy ones that seem to be must-haves for ad campaigns). I also do not see any pantomime. No, this is the stuff they like in Chicago: Co-speech gestures. An episode full of deictics, beats, iconic and metaphoric gestures, right?

From the McNeill lab: A misconception has arisen about the nature of the gesture categories described in Hand and Mind, to wit, that they are mutually exclusive bins into which gestures should be dumped. In fact, pretty much any gesture is going to involve more than one category. Take a classic upward path gesture of the sort that many speakers produce when they describe the event of the cat climbing up the pipe in our cartoon stimulus. This gesture involves an iconic path-for-path mapping, but is also deictic, in that the gesture is made with respect to an origo –that is, it is situated within a deictic field. Even “simple” beats are often made in a particular location which the speaker has given further structure (e.g. by setting up an entity there and repeatedly referring to it in that spatial location). Metaphoric gestures are de facto iconic gestures, given that metaphor entails iconicity. The notion of a type, therefore, should be considered as a continuum –with a given gesture having more or less iconicity, metaphoricity, etc.

Wrong! Apparently the main problems of McNeill’s typology of gestures, that has sent many an engineer on a wild goose hunt for iconic gestures, are now even recognized at the source (McNeill, 1992). It is not mutually exclusive but rather an index of the functioning of a gesture (‘as a beat’ – ‘through spatial reference (deictic)’ – ‘referring thorugh iconicity to something concrete’ – ‘referring via iconicity first to something concrete and second through metaphor to something abstract’). Good. I never liked ‘beats’ for example. I don’t think I ever saw one. But to say that it was a misconception… I vaguely recall an annotation procedure called the ‘beat filter’ that begs to differ.

Anyway, at least this clears up the discussions regarding ‘metaphoric gestures’ considerably [they are de facto also iconic, the metaphor functions on another level]. And it also clears the way for an annotation of this video. Any volunteers? Well, you would have to get a decent file of the movie instead of the YouTube flash stuff anyway, so let’s forget about it.

McNeill wrote a new book recently (2005) which is mostly about growth points. But before you read the summary by McNeill you might want to check Kendon’s brilliant poem called ‘The Growth Point‘, which he delivered at McNeill’s festen. I find it neatly captures my feelings towards growth points (and more that is beyond my grasp). I am at once awed, baffled, and stupefied when I read about growth points and catchments.

And so it goes. Again I tried to get it. Again I failed to learn anything from reading about growth points. One thing only. If David McNeill (or Susan Duncan) is right, then annotating gestures in episodes like this will be eternal hell 🙂 And without the speech it will not work. Thank God. I can go to bed with a clear conscience.

Books:
McNeill, D. (Fall 2005) Gesture and Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
McNeill, D. (2000) (Ed.). Language and Gesture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Virginia is for Gangsters and Lovers

Some agency spent about $400.000 on a ad campaign featuring among others, this picture:

Virginia is for lovers

My first impression was that it shows a very happy and very busy young lady. It’s not often one sees someone simultaneously stamping grapes for wine with one foot, perform a balancing act and still have time to make a perfect heart gesture: bravo! What a nightmare photo shoot that must have been. Or a good bit of photoshopping.

But the news (see Fox) is:

“The Virginia is for Lovers “Live Passionately” campaign will remove images of models making the hand gesture, one of several signs associated with the Gangster Disciples, Virginia Tourism Corp. officials said Friday. The gesture shows thumbs and index fingers formed into a heart.”

I looked up the Gangster Disciples, and I checked Gang Signs, and more Gang Signs, and the most complete Gangster Hand Sign Index, where I found the following sign indeed shown as one of the Black Gangster Disciples:

heart gesture from gangster disciples

We have a match. Now the question remains: is it a wise decision to remove the image from the ad campaign? It is hard to judge from a distance. However, I do not think it was necessary, because it is nearly impossible that actual misunderstandings would arise from the use of the picture. Given the clarity of the image and the text on it, I cannot imagine anyone believing that this lady is flashing a gangster sign. Any gesture that is used as a conventional semiotic sign, or symbol, is what people choose it to be. If the producers of this campaign and the public that is adressed with it both agree that in this context it conveys something like ‘love/heart/passion’, then so be it. Other people in other contexts or other countries are free to attach their own meaning to the gesture.

But, even though I can see no principled reason to scratch the image, it is understandable to do so anyway. Personally, I do not find it a very good picture, nor do I think that introducing a special gesture for a fairly complex message is going to be a succes (do they actually think people are going to adopt it in some way?). And why grant a bunch of gangsters a good laugh if you can avoid it (although they are probably already laughing their heads off from all the free publicity). In that sense, it is damage control to remove the picture.

The best thing might have been to completely ignore the complaints and turn a blind eye to the gangster’s sign. In that way, the gesture might have even been seen as ridiculing the gangster sign. Anyone flashing it could be mocked as a supporter of the campaign ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ instead of being a hardcore gang member. I admit, it probably wouldn’t work that way, but it would have been better than granting the gangster disciples this PR victory.

Other post on MS13 and gang gestures.

Small Penis Gesture

In the news today: the Australian Roads and Traffic Agency (RTA) has launched a campaign to demotivate drivers from speeding:

No one thinks big of you
The video is good too.

The RTA hopes this small gesture will have a bigger impact on young men than images of bloody car crash victims. I think it probably will.

Serbian Salute by Marija Šerifović

Marija Šerifović recently won the Eurovision Songfestival with a nice song called Prayer.

Marija during her performance
Marija Šerifović (photo by Indrek Galetin)

She is also the main character in a nice story about a gesture: the Serbian Three-finger Salute: The three-finger salute is a Serbian salute with the thumb, index, and middle fingers open.

The origin of this gesture is said to be the orthodox way of crossing yourself, with three fingers instead of the entire hand (referring to the Christian Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

That is not unlikely but the actual othodox crossing is done with three fingers together, not spread. The spreaded Serbian salute could however be seen as an exaggerated version of the hand used in crossing. It is as if the Serbs, in this gesture, stress their difference from people that cross themselves with the thumb touching the fingers in opposition (catholic Croats?).

The Serbian salute is made, for example, by fans and players to celebrate sport victories. Members of other ethnic groups, especially Bosniaks and Croats, are said to find it provocative. So, it is effectively a symbol of national and/or ethnic identity.

Now, if you rewatch the footage from songfestival, you can see Marija and other members from her group giving the salute regularly when they receive points, or when they are cheering after their win. The same goes for cheering crowds in Belgrade.

Serbs cheer Marija's victory with salutes

In a way I feel that this salute is similar to waving a little flag, which is not criticized among songfestival contenders. However, one specific occasion sparked a bit of commotion. After receiving 12 points from Bosnia Herzegovina Marija made the Serbian salute. Some people were offended because Serbian troops also flashed this gesture around on their military campaign there, reminding people of the atrocities commited there by the Serbs (and others).

More generally, the Serbian salute was often used as a nationalist sign before and during the Yugoslav wars.

When she was confronted about her salute Marija Šerifović was irritated and said she did not have to explain her behaviour. Serbian commenters on the web are also quick to make light of the matter or suggesting critics to go to hell. Is it justified that the criticism is so easily shrugged off? I think it is not justified. I think Marija and other Serbs are well aware that they offend people with the gesture.

Because it is not the first time this story was told. It all happened before in exactly the same way, in 2003, with a Serbian basketball player in the NBA called Vlade Divac. He also flashed the Serbian salute to cheer or greet his countrymen. And when he was confronted by critics he also downplayed it and shrugged it off, much like Marija now, although he seemed to be well aware of the meaning and use of the gesture in the wars.

Read the full story for a good background on how to interpret the modern use of the Serbian salute. It also gives a good impression of how it was used by the Serbian militia. Here is a paragraph that I think captures the essence:

The symbol is associated with the Serbian Orthodox Christian Church, and experts say it represents the Christian Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But, through decades of ethnic strife, the gesture took on a nationalist meaning. It is also associated with the “Three C’s” from the nationalist slogan “Only Unity Will Save the Serbs” (In the Serbian language, the words “unity” “save” and “Serb” all begin with the Cyrillic letter “c” the equivalent of “s”) It became used as a threatening weapon, an “in your face” gesture aimed at terrorizing non-Serbs.

So, are we to believe that people like Marija, who appears to be an intelligent, informed Serbian, are not aware they are causing offence with the Serbian salute? I find that very hard to believe. Sure, the songfestival stirs up feelings of national pride, and a lot of flags are waved. But this should be mixed with growing respect for eachother. That is the purpose of such events, much like the Olympics. I can only see this gesture as a childish boasting of her own Serbian identity mixed with a display of contempt for neighbouring peoples. Not illegal perhaps, but quite rude and highly offensive.

The only justification that could be made is that history is not as we think we know it, that the Serbs were actually also victims of the war, that this should be acknowledged, and more of such excuses. But even such a view (which I do not share) does not take away the childishness and rudeness of the act. It just hurts the eyes. Elsewhere: Samaha

Zach Randolph fined $133.333 for finger to fans

Yep, it’s another basketballer giving the finger to the crowd. One more for the collection of insulting gestures caught on camera. This one is recent though (news of December 10). Trail Blazers’ Zach Randolph fouled out and as he walked off the court, he made an “obscene gesture” toward fans behind the scorer’s table.

Is that enough for a $133,333 fine?

His club suspended him for one game-day without pay (equalling a fine of $133,333, or 1/90th of his annual salary of $12 million). Have you ever heard of a higher fine for the finger?

I do not have one in my collection of fines, but there have been jail sentences for gestures, but those are mostly for threatening gestures.

ps. Funny how American news sites never say he gave the finger, or flipped the bird. It is always a vague “obscene gesture”. As though writing it down amount to saying “Fuck You!” out loud.

Will Wii Win?

The Wii is the new Nintendo gaming console that you could call a gesture interface. It’s a motion sensitive remote control with his second hand sidekick Nunchuk. Gamers appear to like the idea very much, see for example the response to this demo-video of Wii gesture-drumming. Meanwhile, Bill Gates plays it down, blowing smoke up the Xbox chimney, which features real GestureTek. It’s one up in the campaign to get gamers off of their butts.

Which golden oldie is serving which hip youngster at E3? (Buffalo News)

From Protest to Celebration

From angry protests to the chants of victory. The people of Nepal raise their hands much the same way as would we (were we to revolt), I believe.

In protest, the hands are tense. In celebration they are relaxed, or even waving. In defiance we raise a banner or a fist. In defeat we bow our heads and our hands dangle limply at our side. In glory we salute those who stood by us, and release the tension, by cheering or chanting.

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