The Data Materialization Lab engages with the portrayal of human emotions and emotional gestures in autistic people, bringing together artists, designers and scientists concerned with emotion research. The Autism and Emotion (e-Motion) research includes the study of facial expressions, bodily emotions, sequential gestures of emotions and artificial emotions. e-Motion examines the intersections between art production and emotion studies by utilizing affective 3D visualization techniques. These objectives create a unique hub for research into emotions employing leading edge technologies in a creative studio/ lab setting, attracting psychologists and others to make use of the setting to improve the lives of autistic people.
Autism Society Canada advocates research in to the development of better outcomes for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). By better understanding ASD’s and encouraging understanding of emotional development and artistic production in autistic people, the e_Motion Research Lab engages with research that is on the leading edge of emotion research, research of ASD’s, and data visualization.
Researchers seek to enable and connect autistic persons with an awareness of their emotional responses. In autistic people, communication and emotion regulation can be difficult, and interpersonal interactions become overwhelming, stressful or frustrating. Communication difficulties combined with atypical visual and auditory perception in ASD makes traditional learning challenging, and suggests that independent, spontaneous and sensory-based learning comes more naturally to persons with ASD.
Autism and Art
One of the most well known advocates for understanding ASD, as well as the ethical treatment of animals, is Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin writes in her book Thinking in Pictures how as a child she learned and accepted that visualization for her is automatic – to translate words in to pictures. Where autistic people tend to be poor communicators they excel at visual and spatial skills. With this in mind, it is important that the research done in the e_Motion lab engages with the visual through data visualization. By drawing on the strong set of visual spatial skills of the autistic person and through the research done and resultant production of artwork through 3D technology, Dr. Rauch will be able to provide insight to understanding the emotional and communication elements of a person with ASD.
Context of e_Motion
Within the overall autism spectrum, a person may range from very low to very high on empathetic and emotional responses. Therefore autism can exemplify more general views of emotions, e.g. the ability to read and understand facial expressions of emotions in social situations. Often autistic people do not recognize emotional facial expression or body gesture in others, as eye contact is avoided. The autistic child learns differently from non-autistic peers (Matsumoto, 2007) and studies have shown that emotion plays a role in learning (Ekman, 2003). Therefore e_Motion research combines the study of autistic emotions with emotional creation. The relationship between art creation and emotion has a long history – as seen for example, in the work of international contemporary artists Bruce Nauman, Tony Oursler and Bill Viola, (Paul, 2008) who use electronic and digital media to express their ideas – but the study of creation and autism is not developed and the application of emerging technologies in this context is also novel.
Dr. Rauch will introduce in to this research the field of art and design, and establish arts-based research with artistic and non-artistic autistic subjects. Drawing upon the emergent methodologies of art-based research, Dr. Rauch will approach this research project in order to benefit autistic people in understanding emotion and communication as well as the way in which data visualization and 3D printing can be used in research with human participants. Arts-based research with human participants is an emergent and developing field of research and research ethics, where exciting and engaging dialogue has been introduced in the international research community.
Why e_Motion is innovative and critical:
1) To engage in critical research of understanding ASDs; to benefit people with ASDs in order to better understand emotion, communication, and artistic or creative impulse to communicate; to provide a forum for people with ASDs to engage in arts-based research, production, and exhibition.
2) To utilize a 3D environment, and manipulate emotional expressions and gestures with haptic devices, to produce 2D and 3D representations (e.g. digital animation, holographic images, and rapidform processed sculptural works) for artistic and scientific analyses.
3) To examine the intersections between art production and emotion studies by utilizing affective 3D visualization techniques. To provide the opportunity for artistic practice to play a major role in empathy and emotion research and embodies art-led practice-based interdisciplinary research.
4) To engage in interdisciplinary research across the disciplines of art, design, cognitive science and emergent technologies.
5) To be on the leading edge of emergent technologies in data visualization: to contribute to an expanding scholarship of emotion research in autistic subjects to art-based research and technology.