Flying, Spinning, and Breaking Apart: Live Video Processing and the Altered Self


Session Title:

  • Body and the Digital Space

Presentation Title:

  • Flying, Spinning, and Breaking Apart: Live Video Processing and the Altered Self




  • As realtime video representation of the body becomes more and more common through video chat and smartphones, some people will want to exert creative control over their image. And although the video image is wholly constructed with digital data, and therefore capable of infinite manipulation, it is tethered to a live human being. No matter how abstract the image may become, its gestures are not that of an algorithm, but a spontaneously acting person – the language/expression of a moving, sensing body.

    This paper draws upon examples from the past ten years of the author’s creative work in multimedia dance and interactive installation to examine the experience of live video processing and the body. In these works, scale is important – all of the projections are approximately life size to act as a mirror to reflect back the viewers’ movements. Whole body movements are also important – the viewer or dancer is fully engaged with freedom of movement, a sense of balance, and kinesthetic response. These works show a translation from the physical to the digital, a common theme in digital media research. However, what is most interesting is the feedback loop back: the digital image alters both human movement and sensation, which, in turn, alters the processed image. Viewers tend to imitate their altered image, finding a limited repertoire of movements that “resonate” with their digital double.

    How do these processed images add new knowledge of our selves? How do we “feel” when observing our bodies extended, warped, colored or delayed in time? How are group dynamics affected when people find themselves interacting with others in the same altered world? Just as a distorted guitar effect adds new harmonic content to a plucked string, altering its expression with tremendous weight and power, video processing adds new information, changing the meaning and perception of our own image.

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