7 Jul 2011

Modelling the self with Motion Capture

Posted by Carole Kirk

Darren Tunstall (Lecturer in Acting, University of Central Lancashire)

Motion Capture AvatarAbstract: The technology of digital motion capture allows body movements to be captured and represented as moving 3D points in 2D space. It is regularly used in Life Sciences, Animation, Computer Games Design, Human-Computer Interaction and Dance Performance and Notation. At the University of Central Lancashire’s Media Factory, I have begun interdisciplinary investigations into how this technology may also offer a space for reflective encounters between students of acting and what the philosopher Thomas Metzinger calls the Phenomenal Self-Model. By this is meant ‘how my brain-mind represents my body to itself’. I report on subjective accounts of how, in the moment of seeing one’s moving body represented as no more than a handful of points of light, students experience an uncanny feeling of recognition. The representation is both ‘me’ and ‘not-me’. Motion capture potentially allows the student a space for processes of auto-feedback and subsequent bodily adaptations. Recognition of one’s own shape or movement as characteristic of the individual is not reliably replicated when the representation is altered in certain ways, for example when certain sections of the body are removed from the image – showing the spine and head only, for instance – or when the representation is profile rather than frontal.

Motion Capture SkeletonAn example is given of an interdisciplinary research project from summer 2010, partly funded by Palatine, in which acting students with Developmental Co-ordination Disorder performed a number of simple tasks; the results suggested that the definitional boundaries of dyspraxia, including those of the investigators, could be influenced by the subject’s own PSM. In this case, the tensions of interdisciplinarity generated a productive ‘fuzziness’ for dialogue and self-reflection.

Edit: You can download Darren’s paper here – MODELLING THE SELF WITH MOTION CAPTURE (click to download PDF)