Last year I became interested in the possibility of comparing different politicians and public figures through computer assisted analysis of their speeches. Starting with archival videos of famous addresses, I created a small program that scans the volume level of the audio track and takes snapshots of the speakers at his/her loudest (i.e. most emphatic) moments. It then combines these snapshots into a single composite photo. The resultant images reveal otherwise hidden facial features and patterns of body language. When viewed in series they allow us to compare speakers within a much more controlled set of parameters than if we were simply to watch these videos side by side.
Last April I was fortunate enough to be invited to give a talk on this project at the Critical Themes in Media Studies conference in New York City. Unfortunately I never got around to creating a real post about the piece, however renewed interest in the topic has driven me to fix this. Below you will find image and sound examples taken from the talk. If you’re interested in using this program for your own work, the code can be found here. Over the next few weeks my close friend YuanYi Fan will be using the software to analyze candidates in the upcoming Taiwanese Presidential Election, so links will surely follow.
More examples and the code itself can be found on the Full Project Page
Dr. Martin Luther King jr.
George H. W. Bush
George W. Bush