A new feature from the New York Times is either staggeringly brilliant or many, many steps too far: It purports to derive meaning from the simple hand gestures and physical tics on display when President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney speak. The media, it appears, will leave no stone unturned as we count down to Election Day.
Some choice tidbits:
• On Romney’s “Tilt and Nod”: “Mr. Romney often uses two head movements to punctuate an idea. In the first, Mr. Romney tilts his head to one side, with eyes open wide, as if to ask, ‘Don’t you agree with me?’ In the second, he nods his head, a gesture that suggests, ‘Of course we agree.’”
• When Obama “waves the ball”: “In this movement, the president moves his forearm in an arc from the elbow with his palm open, fingers slightly rounded, as if he were holding a baseball. He often uses this gesture when trying to pass along a belief that he wants the viewer to embrace.”
The Times feature is a collaboration between seven individuals: NYT staffers Xaquin G.V., Alan McLean, Archie Tse and Sergio Pecanha, with Peggy Hackney, a Laban movement analysis expert, and Chris Bregler and Damon Ciarelli, who handled the motion capture and gesture recognition at New York University’s Movement Lab. Was all that effort worth it? You decide. Check it out before the debate tonight.