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Human gait and activity analysis from video is presently attracting a lot of attention in the computer vision community. In this paper we analyze the role of two of the most important cues in human motion-shape and kinematics. We present an experimental framework whereby it is possible to evaluate the relative importance of these two cues in computer vision based recognition algorithms. In the process, we propose a new gait recognition algorithm by computing the distance between two sequences of shapes that lie on a spherical manifold. In our experiments, shape is represented using Kendall's definition of shape. Kinematics is represented using a Linear Dynamical system We place particular emphasis on human gait. Our conclusions show that shape plays a role which is more significant than kinematics in current automated gait based human identification algorithms. As a natural extension we study the role of shape and kinematics in activity recognition. Our experiments indicate that we require models that contain both shape and kinematics in order to perform accurate activity classification. These conclusions also allow us to explain the relative performance of many existing methods in computer-based human activity modeling.