Darwin's Animoji: Histories of Emotion, Animation, and Racism in Everyday Facial Recognition
Facial recognition systems are increasingly common components of smartphones and other consumer digital devices. These technologies enable animated video-sharing applications, such as Apple’s animoji and memoji, Facebook Messenger’s masks and filters and Samsung’s AR Emoji. These animations serve as technical phenomena translating moments of affective and emotional expression into mediated, trackable, and socially legible forms. Through technical and historical analysis of these digital artifacts, the talk will explore the ways facial recognition systems classify and categorize racial identities in human faces in relation to emotional expression. Drawing on the longer history of discredited pseudosciences such as phrenology, the paper considers the dangers of both racializing logics as part of these systems of classification, and of how data regarding emotional expression gathered through these systems can be used to reinforce systems of oppression and discrimination.