Towards a Spatial Politics of Affect

August 10, 2011

As the study and gradual understanding of the existence of affect increases, one methodology of utilising this arises from the anticipation of affect using modern surveillance. “The oligoptic gaze of the dry schemata of modern facial recognition systems that are increasingly being used in a plethora of systems of surveillance and whose genealogy again reaches back to physiognomy”[1]. In using the manipulation of time in videos (a more analytical approach to Viola’s methods), locating the half second delay and the perpetrator before they realise it on a conscious level is fundamentally one of the uses of modern surveillance within cities.


From the analysis of Viola’s work in the essay, you begin to understand that ‘aspects of cities are too often neglected’ and Viola’s work ‘highlights the face as a primary composer of affect and maker of presence’[2]. Therefore, understanding the context of the environment and the different existing stimuli that bombard us visually, one would be able to distinguish the minute nuances of facial change that don’t belong.

Additionally, the essay mentions the resurgence of ‘urban spaces…being designed to invoke affective response’[3]. This means that the architectural composition of a space, urban or private, effectively affects the user. As such, the design composition of visual elements that incline our emotive response and affect, can be manipulated to decide what type of behaviour is appropriate within institutions, and ultimately makes it easier to spot the odd one out, such as security at the airport noticing subtle shifts in body language or facial expression.


It feels as though the use of the study of affect is, in examples, exploitative in conditioning the human behaviour and conforming it to a societal norm, or in an extreme way, emotional engineering.

[1] Nigel Thrift, Pg. 73 “Intensities of Feeling: Towards a Spatial Politics of Affect”

[2] Ibid, Pg. 73

[3] Ibid, Pg. 67-68


Jacky Chan


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