Research database

FACETS - Innovative, cross-disciplinary face perception study

49 months (2020 - 2024)
Principal investigator(s):
Project type:
UE-funded research - H2020 - Excellent Science - ERC
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Project identification number:


FACETS studies the meaning of the face in contemporary visual cultures. There are two complementary research foci: widespread practices of face exhibition in social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tinder; and minority practices of occultation, including the mask in anti-establishment political activism (e.g., Anonymous) and in anti-surveillance artistic provocation (e.g., Leonardo Selvaggio). Arguably, the meaning of the human face is currently changing on a global scale: through the invention and diffusion of new visual technologies (e.g., digital photography, visual filters, as well as software for automatic face recognition); through the creation and establishment of novel genres of face representation (e.g., the selfie); and through new approaches to face perception, reading, and memorization (e.g., the scrolling of faces on Tinder). Cognitions, emotions, and actions that people attach to the interaction with ones and others faces might soon be undergoing dramatic shifts. In FACETS, an interdisciplinary but focused approach combines visual history, semiotics, phenomenology, visual anthropology, but also face perception studies and collection, analysis, and social contextualization of big data, so as to study the cultural and technological causes of these changes and their effects in terms of alterations in self-perception and communicative interaction. In the tension between, on the one hand, political and economic agencies pressing for increasing disclosure, detection, and marketing of the human face (for reasons of security and control, for commercial or bureaucratic purposes) and, on the other hand, the counter-trends of face occultation (writers and artists like Banksy, Ferrante, Sia, or Christopher Sievey / Frank Sidebottom choosing not to reveal their faces), the visual syntax, the semantics, and the pragmatics of the human face are rapidly evolving. FACETS carries on an innovative, cross-disciplinary survey of this phenomenon.

People involved





Total cost: € 1,997,803.00
Total contribution: € 1,997,803.00
PoliTo total cost: € 125,000.00
PoliTo contribution: € 125,000.00