Posts tagged ‘biometrics’
“At such times the person’s face clearly is something that is not lodged in or on his body, but rather something that is diffusely located in the flow of events in the encounter ….” Erving Goffman, “On Face-Work,” Interaction Ritual, p. 7.
I am in a phone meeting with a Hollywood producer. He’s just completed an animation sequence with one of the world’s famous actors. Although the finished work was superb, we’re worried the actor’s animated face isn’t looking real.
“Of all the objects in the world, the human body has a peculiar status: it is not only possessed by the person who has it, it also possesses and constitutes him. Our body is quite different from all the other things we claim as our own… Although we speak of our bodies as premises that we live in, it is a special form of tenancy: our body is where we can always be contacted, but our continued presence in it is more than a radical form of being a stick-in-the-mud. Our body is not, in short, something we have, it is a large part of what we actually are .…” Jonathan Miller, The Body in Question
“That means that in the next few years (maybe much sooner), any camera that sees you will know who you are. You are your face, and your face is public. If not today, then very, very soon.” — Aaron Saenz
Your face is currently under renovation. You won’t see the change in a mirror, but looking around closely you may catch a glimpse of what’s happening. No longer merely the canvas where you express who you are, your face is now what semiotics terms a sign. What once was ‘yours’ exclusively today is “something that stands for something, to someone in some capacity.” This sign, your face, now functions as an interface—“a point of interaction between components … [in] both hardware and software.”
In Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 prescient masterpiece, Persona, a thin young boy awakens in a hospital. He pulls a single, ill-fitting sheet over him and turns restlessly, tellingly, taking up his eyeglasses to read a book. Then, by deliberate contrast, he reaches to the camera lens. Next he walks over to blurry images of the faces of an actress (Liv Ullmann) and a nurse (Bibi Andersson) and his hand traces those images as though to understand them, to see if they are as real as they seem. The faces of the two women merge as the boy reaches out, trying to comprehend what he’s seeing.
“Everybody’s got a hungry heart,” Springsteen told us. Everyone also has, it turns out, a unique heartbeat. IDesia, an Israel-based biometrics company, is capitalizing on this phenomenon, taking it to consumer healthcare and the emerging field of bio-identification.
How does anyone know who you are? On the surface this may seem like a question too abstract (or obvious) to consider. Yet it is a question government officials are facing every day. In fact, governments around the world are presenting an intriguing new narrative that may come soon to a plastic card or digital device near you. With ID cards, at long last citizenry will have something as important as suffrage—an established identity.
Face perception is so hardwired into our brains, it comes as no surprise that we describe social status in terms of face: saving face, losing face, face-off. Showing your face and owning it—owning the right to present it on your own terms, even to sell it if you’re blessed with beauty—is the height of personal empowerment. But our features are also the focus of emerging facial recognition systems that will significantly alter how we think of owning and presenting our faces.