MAS 963  ·  Designing Sociable Media  ·  Spring 2007

03.15 Faces and portraits

So far, we have been thinking about very abstract representations of people. Here we will look more deeply at the question of how people may appear online, starting with this week's unit on faces and portraits. What is it that we read in the face of another? What do we choose to depict?


Shearer West    What is a portrait?
Judith Donath    Mediated faces


  • Read the papers.
  • Answer these questions:
    1. What do you see as the key problems in having facial representations of people in online interactions? What are the main advantages?
    2. How might a portrait differ from a physiologically accurate depiction (e.g. a mugshot)? Why would an artist choosoe to do so?
    3. How might an online representation differ from an accurate depiction? Why would a designer choose to do so? How in turn is this different than a typical portrait?
  • Design an "avatar" that uses a facial representation (that is, it is human-like, rather than entirely abstract) that you think would be an interesting way to depict a person. Does it resemble its "owner"? What information about its owner does it embody and how? What makes change, react?

Please link your work by Wednesday evening.