Mirror Ritual

Human-machine co-construction of emotion

Human emotions are complex and transitory, rendering them particularly difficult for us to model and predict. Typical approaches to emotion recognition tend to rely on simplistic and outdated theories. Namely, we assume the existence of a set of basic, innate, and universal emotion categories that have a unique fingerprint of expression. Recent research in neuroscience has revealed that ‘basic’ emotions such as happiness, anger and fear, are not ‘built-in’ to the brain. Instead, emotions are dynamically constructed from a number of more basic processes; we continuously construct our emotional state based on information from our senses, the context of a situation, as well as the emotion concepts we have available to us.

Language is not only a tool to express emotion, but has been found to be part of emotion perception. Mirror Ritual is an affective interface that engages you in the co-construction of your emotion through the use of machine-generated text. The interface appears as a standard framed mirror, with interaction triggered when a user is present. The mirror perceives your emotional state, informing the generated output which ultimately materialises as a poem on the surface of the mirror.

Artist and PhD researcher Nina Rajcic explains the concepts behind "Mirror Ritual"
People interacting with the mirror

Mirror Ritual provokes you to reflect on your internal emotional state, drawing attention to its intentional or unintentional expression, highlighting the harmony or the conflict between the two. Rather than prescribing your emotional state, the work allows you to freely reflect on how you’re feeling, entering into an interpretative dialogue between human and machine.


Nina Rajcic and Jon McCormack, “Mirror Ritual: Human-Machine Co-Construction of Emotion” in TEI ’20: Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction, ACM, New York, February 2020, Pages 697-702

Nina Rajcic and Jon McCormack, “Mirror Ritual: An Affective Interface for Emotional Self-Reflection” in CHI2020: Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM, New York, April 2020.

Nina Rajcic and Jon McCormack, “Mirror Ritual: AI’s role in reframing viewers’ emotions“, Monash Lens, 22 June 2020.

This research is ongoing.

Project members

Nina Rajcic
Jon McCormack (PhD supervisor)
Vince Dziekan (PhD supervisor)