Elite Interviews about Empathic Media

by Dr Andrew McStay

My presentation at the Hidden Power workshop will briefly outline my AHRC-funded work (ref: AH/M006654/1) investigating the growth of industrial and national security interest in a suite of technologies that I dub “Empathic Media”.

These are soft biometric technologies developed to make inferences about moods and emotions a person is experiencing, and what their intentions may be.This includes data generated by smartphones, wearable devices (such as EEG, respiration, heart rate, galvanic skin responses), facial coding of expressions, voice analytics, eye-tracking, online sentiment analysis, and virtual reality and in-world tracking of data points.

I have employed a mixed-methods approach comprising interviews and a UK-wide survey of over 2,000 people on citizen attitudes to emotion detection technologies and services.

The presentation will focus on the 60+ ‘elite’ interviews conducted with business leaders, technologists, the legal sector, policy makers and national security organisations from UK, mainland Europe, US, Russia and Israel. In addition to talking about methods, processes, findings and means of access, I will also pose questions for the growing community of scholars investigating sensitive topics with people in influential positions. These will be in areas of research ethics, consent, sincerity, objectivity and maintaining critical distance.

Andrew McStay is Reader in Advertising and Digital Media and Director of Media and Persuasive Communication Network (MPC) at the School of Creative Studies and Media, Bangor University

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