Empathic media

Empathic media is a collect-all term to refer to affect-sensitive technologies employed to make inferences about emotions, feelings, moods, perspective, attention and intention. Frequently making use of artificial intelligence and machine learning approaches, they are increasing in capability and diversity of application. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, this project involved: over 100 interviews with industrial, political, security, legal and NGO stakeholders; a UK survey (n=2068); and a workshop at Digital Catapult (UK) with relevant stakeholders to explore scope for ethical guidelines. Overall the research finds that there is overlap between stakeholders on how best to manage the emergence of these technologies, but this is not currently being achieved. It concludes by identifying beneficial uses of these technologies, but also an ethical and regulatory lacuna. Mindful of dangers of regulating early, the report nonetheless recommends regulatory attention. It also urges relevant sectors of the technology industry to recognise that there is self-interest in collective consideration and action regarding negative societal implications of tracking emotional life. See here for academic papers, articles and here for overall project report.

Fake news and emotions

Professor Andrew McStay and Professor Vian Bakir of Bangor University assessed the connection between fake news and emotions. We argue that what is most significant about the contemporary fake news furore is what it portends: the use of personally and emotionally targeted news produced by algo-journalism, empathic media and emotional AI. In assessing solutions to this democratically problematic situation, we recommend that greater attention is paid to the role of digital advertising in causing, and combating, both the contemporary fake news phenomenon, and the near-horizon variant of empathically optimised automated fake news. Written evidence for UK parliamentary inquiry here and our analysis of all parliamentary submissions here. Our academic paper 'Fake News and The Economy of Emotions: Problems, Causes, Solutions' here.


Art and creativity

There is enormous scope for emotional AI to be used for social good. A key domain is art where emotional AI provides scope for new modes of expression and audience engagement.. Andrew McStay has advised and continues to work with digital artist Ronan Devlin, whose work Aura is currently touring the UK.