A Periodic Table of Movements
: Two Reference Frameworks for Quantifiable Emotion, A Practice Based Investigation of Human Expressive Movement and Gesture

  • Iwona Hrynczenko

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The development of sensor-based technologies has opened up avenues for a dialogue between the body and digital spaces, uncovering new possibilities for cross-disciplinary projects and engagements that demand new methods compatible with the ethos of embodied practices, which, in turn, require new approaches and tools.

    This research seeks to address this need by examining the quantifiability and visual properties of embodied emotion through a multi-layered study of human movement and gesture. It is an elaboration of scientific and artistic research methods, intended to answer the following principal question and related sub-questions:

    How can emotions, expressed via whole-body movement be visually documented and archived as a reference framework to stimulate the use and studies of expressive gesture in digital environments?

    As a consequence the following sub-questions become relevant for this research: The first, ontological in its nature; what is expressed emotion? And the second, methodological; how can bodily expressed emotions be visualised and quantified?

    To answer these questions, the research is divided into three parts. Drawing on phenomenological interpretative inquiry and heuristic methodology, whole-body emotive expressions are documented and analysed from multiple perspectives: body, expressiveness, time, space volume and their correlations.

    The first part contains information related to video data collection and the database design. The second part describes silhouette extractions of whole body emotive expressions and an online survey where the visual perception of visual data is measured. The third part of the research contains visual and quantitative data analysis providing the basis for visualisation of the four archetypal emotions: anger, fear, joy and sadness and their relationships. In this process, a multi-method approach was adopted combining both qualitative and quantitative methods adopted from sociology and cognitive science. The contextual review, where virtual embodiment and interactivity are explored build on the aesthetics of performance within new technology, highlighting the adaptability of the methods used in performance art to the field of game design.

    The results of this research and contribution to knowledge reside within both the ontological and methodological approaches used within this study. The ontological resides within the development of two reference frameworks: a correlation table defined as the Periodic Table of Movements (PTM) and a PTM database. The PTM database is a synthesis of embodied emotion data derived from multiple visual representations such as colour, shape, space, volume, time and intensity, whereas the relationship between expressions is visualised in the PTM correlation table. Within the context of an educational framework, the database also provides visual concepts of emotion as epistemic objects for analysis and experimentation. It is a starting point for future cross-disciplinary studies and research on emotions in the context of embodiment and digital technology. The novel methodology of this research contributes to a number of fields with new methods and models of enquiry, grounded within a hermeneutical interpretation driven by artistic development. This exploration opens up a holistic approach to future studies and research grounded in a multimodal attitude to knowledge acquisition.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsArts & Humanities Research Council & Uppsala University
    SupervisorNigel Johnson (Supervisor) & Gair Dunlop (Supervisor)


    • Whole-body emotive expressions
    • Body centered technology
    • Educational game toolsets
    • Human Computer interaction
    • Real-time interactive performativity

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