Codes can be harsh


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From his last conference in spain Tim brought back the typical conference presents, like notepads and informations about the region of Castro Urdiales. Well I am not so interested in settling down in Castro-Urdiales so I flipped only briefly through the infos about the real estate developments of the region. However what caught my attention was the above paper strip. It is an explanation of how to use a spanish fan (there was also a plastic fan among the presents) (Warning: I had never been to spain so my astonishment about the fan may appear ridiculous to some spain experts).




I didn’t know that the way one holds a fan had these particular meanings (see images below). Moreover what I found particularily interesting about this “extended gestural fan language/codes” (or at least gestural emoticons) is that it allows for “blurrying” the informational content. Or in other words: if the woman on the images below is not sure, what she should say she just needs to wobble around with the fan so that her “listeners” will only get an impression of what she “possibly” or – at most – “probably” meant.

I wonder wether this spanish fan language has more “words” and wether you could use it for much more complex statements, like e.g. the always delicate statement “Let’s stay friends” or even a crude “F*** off! I don’t care to see you again”. “Let’s stay friends” is already a statement which could put a sensitive person into a state of crisis. A lot of people try to avoid such critical sentences and thus prefer to “blur” the info and/or “spread it over time” by e.g. saying: let’s stay in touch via phone or email and then subtly reduce the communication (or ask for the phone number and then never call back like in the “F*** off!” statement).

However, one doesn’t need such dramatic purposes – the spanish fan language would already come in handy for much less delicate statements like: “It seems you have a cold, please don’t cough in my vicinity” – a statement which you would neither like to blast out that plumply.

How much people tend to “blur” intentionally is of course also a cultural thing. Germans are known to be very forthright and thus this may appear sometimes as “harsh”. On the other hand a firm statement often clears the situation and should leave no place for false hopes, ambiguity and/or miscommunication.

I had once the idea for a project of asking a choreographer to develop a gestural code for little math operations. (A bit like the gestural code of Noh-theater, but much more down to earth..:)). The gestures should be read into a computer, so that you could basically dance with a calculator.
Well – I met choreographer Sasha Waltz on New Years eve (a party which was organized by Radialsystem), but I didn’t dare to ask her. Where one should say that as a matter of fact the 3D gesture recognition programs are – as it seems – not yet good enough for this purpose and obviously need some more development time.

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One Response to “Codes can be harsh”

  1. Libby Says:

    Dear Professor Hoffmann

    Did you meanwhile find out wether there exist more words in the “Castro-urdiales fan language”?

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