Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Semiotic Gestalt Magick, pt. 2

Affecting Others through the unconscious inculculation of unease.

Principle 1) The uncanny valley [1]
Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970 once stated the more human a robot acted or looked, the more endearing it would be to a human being. For example, most lovable Robot Buddies look humanoid, but keep quirky and artistically mechanical affectations. However, at some point, the likeness would seem too strong, and it would just come across as a very strange human being. At this point, the acceptance drops suddenly, changing to a powerful negative reaction. When shown as a graph (see above), the acceptance on the Y axis and increasing X approaching human normal, there is a slow rise, then a sudden drop, then a sudden peak as "human normal" is reached. Masahiro Mori referred to this as the "uncanny valley". Thus, things that look somewhat human, but are clearly not - such as C-3PO (in Star Wars) or a Golem - produce an accepting reaction, while things that are very nearly human, but just a little strange - such as a child's doll, a ventriloquist's dummy, or a clown - produce a negative response. Some say the very lowest point of the valley is the zombie, a living corpse. Others would say that zombies are just hella scary, and that slightly-not-right Pod People, for instance, are closer to the nadir. The Uncanny Valley may be a deep, instinctual reaction; it steers humans, on an automatic level, away from humans who are dead, diseased, or deformed (which is often an indication of poor health). It may also alert "normal" people to the presence of mental problems which would render someone unfit for inclusion in a peer group. In that way, the theory goes, the Uncanny Valley is a protection against associating with sources of infection. Of course, backfires of such beneficial instincts might also have a large part in the development of racist sentiment.
Figures that appear almost human, but do not look quite human, or do not behave quite human, are objects of unconscious or low-level conscious unease in most subject. Bilateral symmetry, to a degree of approximation, is comfortably human. Deliberate invocation of bilateral assymetry can be unconsciously disconcerting. Humans are expected to fidget or make small scale movements, even while standing still. Stillness, especially tension without the aesthetic release of movement can invoke uneasiness through the uncanny valley.

Principle 2) Use of archetypical imagery.
Woven through the myths and stories of Western culture is the archetype of "the man in black". The archetype is instanced in various forms, from the literal 'black man' of witch hunts, to the humanoid in the black robe, to the badass longcoat of modern stories. In nearly case, the figure in black, especially in black that elongates or distorts the humanoid shape, is an image of fear, unease, and death. Even when the subject is not consciously aware of such, the archetype can evoke this emotional power of response.

Principle 3) Denial of comfortable environment.
Nearly all subjects experience unease when in an environment they believe is outside of their control, and that does not meet their comfort needs. Light is a way of establishing control of an evironment - that which is seen can be dealt with, that which is unseen is an implied threat. If the enivroment is cold, then the comfort need for warmth is not being met. If the environment that a human experiences is outside their normal range of territory, or outside of where they feel safe, the territory will contribute to the unease.

Principle 4) Lack of emotional response
When placed in opposition to another person, most subjects gain a feeling of empathy if the other person shows emotional response. Even more so, showing predictable emotional responses - where outside stimuli cause responses in accord with the subject's understanding of human behavior - is unconsciously comforting. Therefore, the denial of those responses is unconsciously disconcerting.

Attributes required:

1) Conscious control of breathing, to the point of being able to breathe softly, quietly and rythmically. May be obtained by zazen, yoga, or other forms of breath conrol training.

2) Elimination of fidgeting. May be obtained through zazen, yoga, discipline training (military, drum corps, or similar), training in dance or other physical performance discipline.

3) Emotional control sufficient to restrain outward displays of emotional response. May be obtained by practice of emotional control or training in acting.

4) Appropriate costuming and appearance. Black, outline distorting, and assymetrical. Shadowing of the face

Practical application: Inculculating unease in another can lead to an advantage for the magi in interpersonal dealings with that person. Subjects in a state of unease can be expected to be less sure of themselves, their positions, and their beliefs. Additionally, some subjects will find it more difficult to act rationally, being subconsciously nagged by their unease. These can be turned to the advantage of the magi.

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