Big Eyes, Emojis, and the Sickly, Sweet Smell of Sentimentality

NOTHING, is as gut-wrenchingly, vomit-inducing, flu-shivery and ‘give-me-a-wrecking-drink-of-anything-strong-enough-to-get-me-drunk-in-one-big-slug,’ intolerable – as a kitten-video

Nothing, NOTHING, is as gut-wrenchingly, vomit-inducing, flu-shivery and ‘give-me-a-wrecking-drink-of-anything-strong-enough-to-get-me-drunk-in-one-big-slug,’ intolerable – as a kitten-video. Not even puppies with toilet rolls wrapped round their heads and dragging the soft-velvety product out of the bathroom and across the family’s beautiful sitting room, is as nauseatingly vertiginous as a kitten video.

Why, then, are researchers delving into this area of ghastly indulgence to give us answers as to how to make things yet more cute?

Democracy requires that we respect each other and that we agree, when in disagreement that some sort of settlement must be achieved. Then how can we guard against sentimentality? The answer is to show that it is false and it is too easily obtained. As Oscar Wilde noted, ‘It takes a man with a heart of stone, not to laugh at the death of Little Nel.’
False emotions are those that we feel without paying the real cost. Too easily we smile at what we take to be human characteristics in animals. Remember that Wittgenstein told us, ‘If the lion could speak, we wouldn’t know what it was saying.’

Cutesy is sentimentality writ large. Those of us in the arts ought to know better. We should remember the teaching of Bertholdt Brecht,

Those features of our social life must be stressed that are full of implications for the future. But prettification and improvement are the deadliest of enemies not just of beauty but of political good sense. The life of the labouring population, the struggle of the working class for a worthwhile creative life is a grateful theme for the arts. But the mere presence on the canvas of the workers and peasants has little to do with this theme. Art must aim at broad intelligibility. But society must increase the understanding of art by general education. The needs of the population have to be satisfied. But only by fighting at the same time against its need for trash. Often the right thing is asked for but the wrong kind of thing encouraged.
(Bertolt Brecht, 1974)

Then why are we so immersed in a culture of sentimentality and easy emotion? The answer lies in the fact that there is money to be made out of the exploitation of sentimentality.

References:
Bertolt Brecht, ‘Cultural Policy and Academy of Arts’, in (ed.) John Willett, London: Methuen, 1974
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Cuteness Engineering (2017 book)

Are you looking for a “state of the art monograph which presents a unique introduction to thinking about cuteness and its incorporation into modern, especially computer-based, products and services”? If so, you could consult Cuteness Engineering : Designing Adorable Products and Services (Springer International Publishing, Hardback £61.99 or e-Book £48.99).

Here is an example chapter -: Taxonomy of Cuteness by Aaron Marcus, Masaaki Kurosu, Xiaojuan Ma, and Ayako Hashizume. The authors use the Manga 109 dataset (compiled by the Aizawa Yamasaki Laboratory, Department of Information and Communication Engineering, the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo) to break down ‘cute’ manifestations into a considerable number of distinct taxonomic groups – for example :

▪ Scary cute with facial scar

▪ Awkward (frustrated) cute with squeezed eyes

and

▪ Stupid cute with exaggerated eyes and mouth [illustrated]

The taxonomy is an ongoing project, say the authors :-

“We expect it to expand and differentiate in detail as more examples become well known to students of cuteness engineering/ design and as cuteness expands its role in the ongoing development of products and services.”

Also see : Goo Labs’ search engine for Kawaii, things that are cute

Posted by Martin Gardiner on Monday, April 2nd, 2018 at 8:10 am under Arts and ScienceResearch News

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