Machine in the middle: exploring dark patterns of emotional human-computer integration through media art

Rod Dickinson, Nathan Semertzidis, Florian "Floyd" Mueller

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperOther

1 Citation (Scopus)


As our relationship with machines becomes evermore intimate, we observe increasing efforts in the quantification of human emotion, which has historically generated unintended consequences. We acknowledge an amplification of this trend through recent technological developments that aim toward human-computer integration, and explore the dark patterns that may arise for integrating emotions with machinic processes through "machine_in_the_middle". Machine_in_the_middle is an interactive system in which a participant wears an electroencephalographic headset, and their neural activity is analysed to ascertain an approximation of their emotional state. Using electrical muscle stimulation their face is animated into an expression that corresponds with the output of the emotional recognition system. Through our work, we contribute the insight of three possible dark patterns that might emerge from emotional integration, including: reductionism of human emotion, disruptions of agency, and parasitic symbiosis. We hope that these insights inspire researchers and practitioners to approach human-computer integration more cautiously.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCHI'22 - Extended Abstracts of the 2022 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
EditorsCaroline Appert, David A. Shamma
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781450391566
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventInternational Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2022 - New Orleans, United States of America
Duration: 29 Apr 20225 May 2022
Conference number: 40th (ACM Digital Library - proceedings) (Website) (Extended Abstracts)


ConferenceInternational Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2022
Abbreviated titleCHI 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
CityNew Orleans
Internet address


  • Brain-computer interface
  • EEG
  • Electrical Muscle Stimulation
  • Emotion detection
  • Media Art

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