Wednesday, August 1, 2007

We Feel Fine

It seems the idea of finding ways to explore the relationship between people and the Internet is ever increasing on a daily basis. I came across this experiment - We Feel Fine, from two artists Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar from the US - it is an exploration of human emotion on a global scale.

The project "has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved" (WeFeelFine)

From saving this data, which is increased by 15000-20000 new feelings every day, the interface allows the user to explore these 'stored' human emotions. Each particle represents one feeling, the colour, size, shape and opacity indicative of the nature of the feeling inside and by clicking on any one you reveal the feeling inside from someone, somewhere around the world. Furthermore, the program allows you to 'sort the feelings by age, sex, weather, type of feeling etc to generate certain pictures of human emotion.

What I found particularly interesting was the idea you could explore the 'feelings' the database had gathered through six areas titled Madness, Murmurs, Montage, Mobs, Metrics, and Mounds. Also "using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like: do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans? Do women feel fat more often than men? Does rainy weather affect how we feel? What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s? What do people feel right now in Baghdad? What were people feeling on Valentine's Day? Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so on"

This online exploration offers a fascinating insight into human emotion and our increasing relationship with the computer/internet as a way of expressing our feelings. I found it intriguing to explore how people used the internet to express both happy emotions but also worries, problems, guilt and secrets - perhaps it is the appeal of anonymity of yourself and of those who read it. Interaction between humans and the Internet on this level is only set to increase as it becomes more and more integrated into everything we do; as designers we should be aware of how humans use the internet for personal needs and look at ways to respond to this to enhance experiences.

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