I have to finally admit to being uncomfortable during David and Andre’s presentations and the discussion of eMotion and other types of software that analyze facial expressions for emotion. I wasn’t able to put my finger on exactly what made me wary of this type of technology at the time, but after some thought and additional reading, I think I have it.
As a former special educator, I default to the idea that teaching and learning should be an individualized process. As someone who uses Disability Studies as a framework, I am critical of “universals”. The supposedly objective scientific fields have been and are used to construct what is normal, and therefore what is abnormal. This type of categorization of people based on arbitrary criteria leads to the oppression of those who fall outside the “normal” box. I was, therefore, hesitant to believe that there could be such a thing as universal emotions. Then I read an article in Boston Magazine about psychologist Lisa Barrett (http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2013/06/25/emotions-facial-expressions-not-related/) which said that “her research has led her to conclude that each of us constructs [emotions] in our own individual ways, from a diversity of sources: our internal sensations, our reactions to the environments we live in, our ever-evolving bodies of experience and learning, our cultures”. This seemed more in line with what I think is true.
I am afraid that eMotion and other similar technologies normalize certain emotions and thus do not allow for individual experience. I am afraid that in the current climate of teacher bashing and punitive evaluation that such a technology could eventually work against teachers. Perhaps I do not know enough and I would like to learn more, but I wanted to at least open up a conversation about my concerns with this type of technology.